Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's the Small Things

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the old saying, "It's the small things that make all the difference." The phrase has been drummed into my head for decades; by my mother, by my wife, by my business partners and by numerous Bluff residents. After being tripped up by the small things for years, you'd think I'd learn, but still I struggle to incorporate the wisdom of that saying into my daily living.

Earlier today, I was at Bluff's new coffee shop, discussing town politics with Andrea as she attempted to keep pace with the orders. I could not help being reminded of the early days of the trading post, when everything was new and as uncoordinated as a yearling colt. After a time, our business procedures grew smoother and some of the sharp edges were worn down, but there are still days we struggle mightily just to keep the boat afloat.

As I slopped coffee on her counter and asked for a rag to clean the mess, Andrea said, "It's the small things," as though she had penetrated my thoughts. She was exactly right, often just one small gesture changes the entire psychology of a situation. I often find myself out on the lonely back roads of southern Utah, on the run or on the bicycle, and it always amazes me how a friendly smile or wave from a passing motorist will brighten my workout and make the time pass much faster.

Lately, I have been missing my 15 year old daughter Dacia a great deal, and believe that is what started me thinking about all those little events that greatly affect our lives. When Dacia was eight months old, her mother and I decided we could no longer live together. As a result, in order to see Dacia, I was driving back and forth from Bluff to Salt Lake City on a regular basis. On one trip, when Dacia was still extremely young, I happened to run into my friend Corrine in Monticello.

When Corrine asked where I was bound, I explained that I was taking Dacia back to her mother in Salt Lake and related the story of our breakup. Corrine spontaneously put her arms around my neck, giving me a bracing hug and indelibly inscribing her name on my heart. Now, every time I see Corrine, I remember her kindness and that etching glows with the intensity of morning sunlight on Bluff's sandstone cliffs.

Although it sometimes seems that contemporary business practices are devoid of similarly meaningful emotion, I have found the trading post to have many deeply memorable moments. In the old days, trading post relationships were often founded upon geographic isolation and necessity. The posts were built in locations where there was a certain number of people within a given distance. It therefore behooved the locals to trade at the regional post; primarily because it was just too darn far to the alternative.

With the advent of modern transportation; better vehicles and roads, trading posts are not nearly as important to the local population as they once were. The patrons, whether buyers or sellers, have many choices. The small things have therefore become so much more important. Relationships are founded upon respect and fairness, not simple necessity. That makes them voluntary and more balanced. It can also make them more comical and enjoyable.

For years, I have tried to lure some of the more accomplished rug weavers away from their favorite posts in Shiprock or Farmington, New Mexico. I have often found myself frustrated that the weavers drive right past Bluff on their journeys east. After a time, I realized these weavers had developed trusting relationships with certain traders that were virtually impossible to change. Of course we have been the recipient of that same advantage with respect to many other artists, who rely on us to keep everything in order.

The other evening I was sitting in a town meeting, listening to mind numbing explanations about community waste water solutions, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone vigorously waving her arms and hopping from foot to foot like the ladies room was needed. As it turns out, it was Lorraine Black.

"Not now," I said, waving her off. "I have a basket," she demanded. "Not now," I said, vigorously shaking my head and furrowing my brow for emphasis. "Look," she said, unveiling an absolutely stunning basket. "Not now," I repeated. Outside, her almost new Dodge truck, which has been driven enough miles to circumnavigate the globe twice, was in need of attention, so the deal had to be made.

As in all good relationships, we found a way to meet each others' needs, settle the details and make each other happy with the end result. I can still see her dancing excitedly by the door, partly from excitement about her latest creation and partly because she needed to get the deal done. It clearly is the small things that are most memorable and meaningful; a necessary accommodation, an embrace given at just the right moment, a friendly wave on a lonely road or a gentle nudge that sends you off in a completely new direction. The big things come and go, but the small things, administered on a daily basis, make all the difference.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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