Margaret (Meg in my head, but Margaret at her request) turned 7 recently. For her birthday she requested ice skating and ice cream. You know, to go with the general theme of freezing our rears off this January in Iowa. Anyhow, off we went to the skating rink last Saturday. Justin skated with the older kids (Spencer did eventually join in, and then sobbed when it was time to leave the ice), and I sat ringside with Sterling. Luckily, the glass was the perfect height for him to stand and watch, and he was happily entranced by all the motion and activity. The morning was fairly relaxing for me.
While watching my family skate, I also took in a few ice skating lessons which were going on during the free skate period. The same instructor stuck around for the entire period, skaters coming on and off to partake of his wisdom. Perhaps that phrase seems a bit high and mighty thrown into a paragraph like this: “partake of his wisdom.” But the more I watched this instructor, the more I felt this to be true.
Let’s be clear, this was not any sort of special skating rink. And these particular lessons were taking place during the free skate time. No one had paid for private ice, or even semi-private ice. This instructor likely had never trained Olympic athletes, or skated in the Olympics himself. But despite the assumed mediocrity of his talent, there was something magical about watching this ordinary man teach a spin or a glide to an ordinary girl. He was changing her. He was passing on his wisdom and experience. He was creating beauty in the middle of the mall in the middle of nowhere Iowa.
So often I believe we see the greats around us and we are dismissive of the small skill sets we claim for our own. We see our impact on the outside as extraordinarily tiny. I remember watching some ridiculous science fiction show once where the bad guys were able to trace the “heat shadows” of people within their homes. From their screens, they watched little green dots which followed the movements of live people below. Since then, I often get an image of my own green dot. It pretty much sits in my house, sometimes exiting to get the mail, and then returns inside the four walls which make up my home. It is a fairly unaccomplished green dot, as far as green dots go.
But after watching this man, after seeing the good of what he did by showing up at this ice rink and teaching a novice to skate in a straight line, I realized it’s inaccurate to see my green dot as inconsequential. I can create wonderful things. And maybe only a few will ever interact with the work that I do. But the number count is what is meaningless, not my work.