In retrospect, I ought to have paid more attention when I first noticed the slight hiss in the basement. But it barely registered—until I went downstairs for something else, hours later.
Who knew that a pin-sized hole in copper piping can cause a flood in three hours?
The pilot of the jet leaving the Newark, New Jersey airport should have paid better attention too. Seconds after takeoff he noticed a warning on his control panel. He didn’t think it crucial and chose to carry on to Warsaw. Hundreds of passengers sat comfortable in their seats, ignorant that beneath them the hydraulic fluid responsible for lowering the plane’s landing gear had drained from its tank. Miraculously, the pilot managed a successful—if flamboyant—belly landing, with no casualties.
The problem? A $30 fuse had popped.
Children should grow up knowing this—little things are seldom little things.
As I sat working in my home office one day, the power went off. It stayed off for hours. We later learned the reason. A curious squirrel made a casual inquiry into one of the city’s electrical transformers. The creature, ignoring much barbed wire and many signs clearly warning that electricity kills, had gnawed into a bundle of wires in a shiny green box. The resulting explosion left me without computer, bakers without ovens, construction workers without power tools—and frustrated many others. The squirrel? It never lived to tell the tail.
Little things matter. Oh, did I already mention that?
One of the largest man-made US disasters occurred on July 17, 1981, in Kansas City, Missouri. During a tea dance at the splendid Hyatt Regency Hotel observers watched from a magnificent series of aerial walkways suspended from the ceiling. Suddenly, the platforms beneath them collapsed.
An inquiry into the disaster revealed the problem: During construction a design change, made for the sake of convenience, left the weight of the entire structure supported by a single nut—albeit a large one. But the genuine problem wasn’t the nut. Had someone stopped to make a small calculation (which could have easily been scribbled on the back of an envelope) they would have realized the design flaw immediately. Sadly, deplorable architectural carelessness cost 114 people their lives.
A tiny mistake. A deadly consequence.
Someone first noted in the year 1390 that: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” Times haven’t changed much, have they?
But little things work the other way too: In the spiritual realm, a prayer spoken, a corner un-cut, a hunch followed, a Holy Spirit whisper heeded—and someone’s destiny is forever changed.
Pay attention to the small stuff. It’s rarely small stuff.