I’ve been grateful for the deluxe accommodations that has been provided for my fourth month visit at Thompson Rivers University. I’m on the fancy floor of suites, above 10 floors of student residences.

The floor I am on (I think) they run out of their Hospitality program, so there are students in that program working here too. There’s a lot of passing back and forth as I come and go, but obviously I am not a student.

Among all the Big Things we deal with daily, how often to appreciate the small things, exchanges that people do?

Large Order Of Toast
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by JD Hancock

I see regularly on the elevator two tall young men on my same floor. I asked them once what they were studying. “Business.” So I always ask them “how’s business?” (ugh). One day they will likely be tycoons.

One late night returning to my room, reaching for my key card I apparently dropped 2 credit cards in the hallway. The next day at lunch, I had a major panic when I went to pay for my meal and the cards were not in the regular spot. I returned to my room to start the process of calling the banks, and the young lady at the desk stopped and said, “I have something for you.” Stephanie (now I say hi all the time) handed me an envelope with my cards in them. The manager on the night shift found them outside my room on her nightly rounds.

Heading up the elevator yesterday, a young man and woman boarded; he was eating from a small box of candy. I smiled and asked, “Does that help with studying?” (it’s exam week). He laughed and said, “I need all the energy I can get for studying.” His friend snorted and said, “Studying? You’ve been studying movies all week!”

There’s Cathy who cleans my room; she knows my coffee habits now, and supplies me with extra. I also know now that she likes the snow.

Sunday I went out for a short (cold) walk to seek my daily photos. Walking back into the lobby, the young man at the desk asked if he could see my camera. We talked photography, and he showed me some of his photos he had stored on his phone. He asked about how he might learn to use his DSLR as he said he had no idea of how to use the settings (I think he said he has a Canon D60, I have a 7D), we talked lenses. I asked him if he shoots in Program mode, and started to explain how I shoot in aperture priority. He asked he would understand better if I showed him what I was talking about. Sometime soon Sandeep will text me and we will go on a photo walk.

Let me be clear that I am a card carrying introvert, and so talking to people I do not know is going uphill against my personal comfort inertia. And so you can listen to your self talk a lot and stay there. It’s not really hard to do, make eye contact, smile, ask a question.

My break in my routine happened a number of years ago when I lived in Scottsdale, Arizona. At that time I actually had to get work clothes dry cleaned, and noticed when I went into the local shop what a barrier the counter could be. I’d notice customers in line, mostly white, drop off bags of stuff, never stopping yakking on their phones, never acknowledging the mostly young Hispanic women behind the counter. Never making eye contact.

Never acknowledging another person. It happens more than not.

Acknowledgement, recognition of others matter so much, even more in online interaction. People get so little of it, we get our micro reassurance when some one clicks a blue button.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not chatting up every customer service I come in contact with. But just looking them in the eye, thanking, even an eye brow raise when the person in front of you is being a jerk… you might be surprised at the effect.

The littler things indeed matter. Well at least to me.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by JD Hancock

(I love this set of “Little Dudes” photos I found on flickr ; I am pretty sure I have used the dog walking in a book one before in a presentation)

The post "The Little Things" was originally slapped on the butt by a cigar smoking doctor yelling "It's a post!" at CogDogBlog (https://cogdogblog.com/2014/12/the-little-things/) on December 3, 2014.


  • Maha bali

    Loved this, the larger point about acknowledgment, and i loved hearing about your mini-interactions. When i travel i become more and more aware of my mini interactions with people because (non-introvert that i am) i tend to interact more with strangers when traveling.
    But you’re also right about the importance of it online. I wonder if ppl who get turned off of connectivist experiences do so because they are unacknowledged because of their initial lack of connections? I know i was scared it would happen to me when i first joined rhizo14!
    P.S. hey, you changed your blog theme! I’ve been reading it on email for a while so onlynoticed now

  • Catherine Cronin

    Hi Alan… I like those “little” photos too :) And I agree with Maha, this is a lovely post.

    Reading it reminded me of my parents. They taught me all about this, by example, from as early as I can remember. My mother was a classic extrovert, my father an introvert (and I’m somewhere in the middle ;) ). They each, in their own ways, connected with every person they came into contact with, with wide open hearts. I witnessed my mother do it from her hospital bed, right up until she died — asking people about their families, smiling, connecting, loving. Amazing to see.

    This is important in online spaces also, as you say — and worth thinking deeply about, not only as open, networked, connected educators and learners, but as human beings who want to contribute to creating a more humane web.

    Thanks for moving my thinking here today… :)

  • Lani Ritter Hall

    Thank you for highlighting “little things”. Our world would be so much the better for adopting the perspective you’ve shared. Imagining here the possibilities, the ripples–

  • Sandy Brown Jensen

    You such a nice guy! Maybe I’ll stop growling at my students …someday.

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