Focusing on the Little Things – Aerin Leigh Lammers

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur just recently started off the Jewish New Year. Frankly, the year 5781 is off to a rough start. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a prominent figure in not only the American political world, but the Jewish one as well, passed away on Rosh Hashanah. That, coupled with a global pandemic, a crisis of racial injustice, and the global climate nearing a point of no return makes 5781 look bleak indeed.

But then, there are little things that happen that give me hope for the coming year. A barista recently charged me for a little, but gave me a large. I finally got around to getting a bedside table and assembling my headboard. I started my position as Vice Chair of an organization close to my heart. These things, while little, give me hope going into the New Year.

Hope is something that is discussed often in my tradition of Reform Judaism. There have been many times in our history as a people that we needed to hold onto the little things. It’s a common joke that our holidays are separated into two categories: ones about food, and ones about someone trying to kill us, and us miraculously surviving. The stories told around the dinner table are often ones detailing the big things: the plagues that ended our enslavement, the oil that lasted 8 days, the woman who managed to save our entire people. But on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there aren’t big stories for us to share. Rather, it’s a time to reflect on the big and little that happened to us and plan for the big and little ahead.

This year, I plan to focus more on the little things that give me hope, rather than the big that do nothing but take it away. While many of us aren’t celebrating a New Year right now, I think that the Jewish New Year might actually come at the most opportune time to start over. With the school year barely beginning and the weather changing, it feels like there has been a shift already and I for one am taking advantage of that shift to give myself space to be hopeful and focus on the details.

In the world as it is right now, I find it even more important to focus on the fact that my new mask matches my outfit, rather than the global pandemic that necessitated mask-wearing in the first place. It is okay, perhaps even admirable, to give yourself the grace and space to focus on the little things that give you hope. We all need to take care of ourselves going into this New Year, and while so much of the media is focused on physical health, it is important to remind yourself to focus on mental health as well.

I wonder how other religions and faiths allow you all to focus on the little instead of always worrying about the big picture? And I ask all my non-Jewish and Jewish friends alike, if we all celebrated the Jewish New Year as we do the Gregorian one, what would your resolution be?

6 thoughts on “Focusing on the Little Things – Aerin Leigh Lammers”

  1. Hi, Aerin Leigh I appreciated your post and the reminder to focus on small positives in the midst of such negative and gloomy times. I feel similarly that in Christian tradition we are reminded to trust God in the midst of our trials. I like this scripture passage from First Peter chapter 5, “cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you”. I think this passage reminds me to do as you suggested to “focus on the little things that give me hope”. I certainly can feel overwhelmed by all that seems to be wrong in the world, so faith can be an important thing for me to turn to when confronted with bad news.
    As to your question about resolutions, I think mine would be to focus on what I can and cannot control. From John 13:7, “Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand'”. In a season of pain and suffering for many, I want to chose more often to lean into that statement. My faith gives me hope because I believe that despite the difficulty of this year, there is hope for good to come of it.

  2. Thank you for your comments about the little things, Aerin Leigh! I think there is a lot of power in focusing on the little things and it can definitely help us feel hope. One of my favorite verses from the Book of Mormon says, “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” Focusing on the small things helps me to focus on the tasks and efforts that are under my immediate control, and I know that those small things can and will eventually add up to big things over time!

  3. Hi Aerin Leigh, I really resonated with your blog post! Your questions regarding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur made me think quite a bit – how would I celebrate New Year’s differently if I celebrated now versus January first? I also thought quite a bit about the little things in life just like you! I think it’s often easy for us to look at the big things in our life and organize the good and bad parts to classify how our life is going. For example, it’s easy to look at the current pandemic and look at life through a negative viewpoint because of how much suffering and grief the pandemic has caused. However, if we take time to focus on the little things such as the deepening of friendships and relationships, the extra time spent in nature and time spent on ourselves, there is a positive(s) that came from the pandemic. Relating this to my faith, Sikhi emphasizes trust in God and the divine spirit residing with all people and creatures on this planet. Each being and event has a unique role. Sometimes it is hard for me to trust that my life is on the right path given what has happened in the world especially this year; however, when I look at how much I have grown and the joyfulness the spirit of unity that resides in all of us, I am hopeful for a better time ahead including the new year. Your post made me think a lot about the things I often take for granted simply because I do not take the time to appreciate and value them. To answer your question, I think this is my resolution: take time to appreciate the little things such as taking a walk outside, time spent chatting with friends and family, the warmth and deliciousness of making a new meal with my family and the thrill I feel upon learning a new dance routine. I hope that this will bring me even closer to Sikhi and help me understand it even more. Great post Aerin Leigh! I hope to discuss this topic with you during our future meetings!

  4. Hi, Aerin Leigh! Honestly, I don’t really have anything profound or poetic to respond to your post, except to say that I really, really, needed to read something like this right now. This week has seen me undergo a wisdom teeth extraction, a painful recovery with complications, and unfortunately an early morning ambulance ride to the ER. I’m behind on my work, and have been feeling pretty down. But reading what you wrote has given me just the energy I need to continue on into the weekend, recover, and start the new week (and new year!) off with hope. My pain is under control, I thrifted a neat new sweater, and I’m excited for a silly Twilight movie night with my roommates! Thanks to your reminders, I’m going to focus on these things and know that everything will be alright, at least for now. Like Laura said in her blog post this week, you need to put on your “oxygen mask” before helping others – I think if I take both of your guys’ advice, take care of myself, focus on the little good things I have, I will soon be ready to take on bigger issues and help anyone I can.

  5. I love the idea of taking a step back and acknowledging the little things that are good. I like how you phrased that in such a way that there is a necessity to hold both truths at the same time, while the pandemic is horrible, a matching mask is still a win. My resolution for Rosh Hashanna is being more introspective, finding out my own needs. I’m a rabid people pleaser, but being in a pandemic where so many social customs have changed, has made me realize that a lot of what I worried about or felt the need to do was only for other people. Not to say I don’t want to be empathetic, kind, considerate, and supportive to those around me, but I want to make sure those actions are meaningful and not performed out of obligation

  6. Aerin Leigh,

    They say that the vast universe can exist within the essence of an ant. The comprehension we might think we possess about the universe is truly out of our ability to understand. How, then do we learn to appreciate the small things? Recently I watched a yellow leaf fall from my neighbor’s tree from my window. I remember it so clearly because it was so mundane yet so unique. So simple yet so beautiful. Sikhi tells us to be mindful of our routines, be present, and aware. Whether that might be reading Gurbani or reading papers and articles for school, taking the time to step out of the zone and say “thank you” or “God is good” or some positive affirmation because even if life doesn’t seem exciting, it’s still a gift that you immensely appreciate.
    My New Year’s resolution would be to practice good mental health habits, build and rebuild relationships with people and remember to be thankful

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