Margaret Marcuson: The Pinch of Little Things

I bought shoes in preparation for a recent trip to Italy. I really wanted them to work. They were the latest and greatest, they were supposed to be extremely breathable, and they were a little more stylish than athletic shoes. Plus I got them on sale at REI.

But they didn't really work. One of my big toes has issues, and the shoes didn’t help. And they were just a little too tight around the instep. But I didn’t want to take them back. Finally, I gave in and returned them, and then bought the latest edition of my regular athletic shoes. I knew they would work. I figured I’d be just another older lady in sneakers, traveling with three other older people in sneakers. Style was not the point. 

In addition, one of my Italian language learning videos had footage of Milan, which I think of as the capital of style. There were people all over the place in sneakers. I didn’t need to worry about fashion as much as I thought I did.

It’s easy to put up with things that don’t quite work. A staff member who routinely underperforms, but will come through in a pinch. A laptop that is nearly on its last legs but you don’t want to try to find another one right now. A routine meeting agenda that has dead weight on it. I’ve done it--I always keep my phone until it won’t work any more even when the battery life or storage capacity is no longer adequate. 

You may have a lot of stories about why you can’t fix them: The staff member has a lot of personal problems and you don’t want to challenge them right now. There’s no budget for a laptop. People will be unhappy if we change the agenda.

Over the years, I’ve found that when I finally deal with one of these challenges, I discover how much energy that not-quite-right thing was taking. And I sure am glad I wore sneakers on my trip.

Click here to get a checklist for sustainable ministry.