I was on the phone this week with someone – a leader, a doer, a thinker, whose opinion I respect dearly, who told me, “I can’t focus on the big picture anymore, I’m only focusing on the little picture.”
What she meant, I think, was that the world around us, the big picture, is becoming more and more difficult to comprehend, surreal and sad- in the context of mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and wild political discourse. She’s not giving up, she’s just choosing to prioritize the “little picture,” her family, her friends, her life. Fair enough.
And then I was walking my dog this morning, on a surprisingly cold 48 degree LA morning, when I thought of my little picture. You see, a few months ago on one of my 6:30am walks, I was approach by a stranger, a neighbor I guess, who asked, “Do you always walk your dog this early in the morning?” “Yes,” I replied.
And this woman told me that a 101-year-old man lives on my street and he has difficulty making it to the end of his driveway in the mornings to pick up his copy of The Los Angeles Times. Would I mind taking it and leaning it against his front door to save him the time and energy since I’m in the area so early in the morning? Seemed like a pretty simple ask, and it’s been part of my morning routine ever since.
And then I heard this week from a friend about his morning routine. He frequents the same LA coffee shop every morning- his little picture. And at that coffee shop, he often sees the same Muslim woman, wearing a headscarf. And last week, just a week after the Inland Regional Center attack in San Bernardino, only 60 miles east from this coffee shop, he saw this woman, this stranger, this neighbor once again.
And he approached her in line, and he told her his family story. He told her that his father, a Japanese American, was removed from his home in California in the 1940s and placed in an internment camp. For no other reason than being Japanese. He empathizes with her. With her community. He understands prejudice. She started to cry.
Last week, my team and I volunteered in downtown LA at a homeless shelter.
I organized the trip to the shelter as part of a larger team offsite – working together prioritizing our 2016 goals in the morning, and helping our community in the afternoon. Selfishly, going into the day, it was about the little picture for me – our team bonding, and our product and marketing team collaborating. The volunteering was a side benefit to the team building exercise.
It became instantly clear after just a few minutes in the heart of downtown LA that the day wasn’t about our startup team anymore – the little picture. The shelter is a place that not only provides meals, but provides health and dental care, a drug and alcohol recovery program, and transitional housing for those in LA’s rising street population.
It was the big picture after all. And that gave me a bit of hope in a world where it’s often difficult to wake up and read the next startling news headline. Sometimes you can affect the big picture, even if you didn’t intend to, just through focusing on the little things.