• Symen A. Brouwers

Art of Everyday: Rekindling our Memory of Small Achievements

We don’t remember the many small things we do so well every day. Look at the overwhelming amount of tiny tasks we do day in, day out, as a routine, from the moment we get up in the morning to when we go to bed at night – making coffee, greeting the shopkeeper on our way to school or work, watching our favorite series. We do not seem to mind much about the small things, even though they are essential in our day and for others, and this lack of attention is holding us back, in our fulfillment, with each other, and our growth. How do we rekindle and cherish our memory of small achievements? How do we teach our children?

Chide me if I am mushy, but I still have these old-fashioned, romantic images in my head when I think about fulfillment and fitting in – probably stemming from a childhood reading books such as Fern Hollow by John Patience and similar. I picture a country store in small town Vermont, the owner a veritable source of local knowledge and gossip. Or an inspired teacher who stirs his students and makes them achieve something out of the ordinary, such as drama teacher Lou Volpe in small town Pennsylvania, producing winning musicals and stage plays for more than 40 years.

Wouldn’t you love to be that Vermont shopkeeper, or a regular customer at his shop? And that high school drama teacher, or one of his students? I sure would: At work in and around them is a deeper process called culture care – noticing life, collecting detail and inside information, generating inspiration, and sticking around to guide in learning the same. This is about getting people together and having them see the similarities in differences in the small, repetitive tasks they perform every day.

Actively remembering everyday practices and the reasons why you do things the way you do, for yourself and for others in your community, shape and deepen your sense of culture. Taking notice of the long history of your small everyday practices (where your coffee beans are from, the personal life story of the shopkeeper), the ways they came into existence, and how they are shaped, and recognizing all the other practices taking place around you, at that same time, equip you with the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship.

Artist and author Makoto Fujimura describes this process of culture care as applied generative thinking: “A well-nurtured culture becomes an environment in which people and creativity thrive”, and we should be fortunate for all the fellow people who take this role on them, so that: “Reminders of beauty are present in even the harshest environments”.

Nowadays, people seem to all inhabit their own truths. We see a decline in any common ground between members of a community or profession. Outside our social circles, people would not know our personal achievements or struggles. And many will eventually grow weary of others’ opinions and forget. Creating this common ground starts by observing all the essential everyday achievements you yourself make and then help others do the same. Like the ministers preaching during Sunday service, this is what our communities need: People to help remember our many small, everyday miracles. Whether you are a shopkeeper, a high-school drama teacher, or a stay at home mom.


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