A recent major home improvement project involved removing a 30-year old wood deck and replacing it with a concrete patio. There were the normal issues, of course, which structurally included adjusting the size of the steps leading inside the house and figuring out what to do with a tricky area around the basement entry. More challenging, the unpredictable Middle Tennessee weather turned an estimated four-day project into an endeavor that took over two weeks.


It was an unexpected little thing, though, that greatly impacted the project. We discovered one morning that a neighbor’s large tabby cat had thoroughly investigated the fresh concrete before it set. Curious cat prints swirled across the entire surface, including up and down the high steps. (At least we blame that particular beast, since he’s the only one we usually see roaming around.)


The intrusion added an extra day while two workers sanded the surface smooth. They were remarkably good natured about it, and one said, “Yeah, sometimes it’s the little things that make the most difference.”


The little things. The tenacious tiny cat prints imbedded in the concrete caused me to think about the little things that sometimes have a huge impact. A friend’s smile on a hard day. An encouraging word, some unexpected patience shown by a stranger, a glimpse of beauty in an otherwise dark environment, so many little things.


A story from last summer has recently resurfaced and circulated on Facebook. In Vancouver, Canada, an imposing man became aggressive on a public train. Apparently suffering from drug abuse or some mental health issue, the 6’5” man started cursing and moving erratically. Passengers were terrified with no way of escape.


Then an elderly woman quietly reached out, took the man’s hand and held it tightly until he started to calm down. Soon the disturbed man sank to the floor and cried, while the kind stranger held and patted his hand. She said later, “I’m a mother and he needed someone to touch.” What a sweet gesture that one writer termed “an incredible display of humanity” in the most positive sense.


Ah, the little touches of kindness, acceptance, generosity, grace. Like little cat’s feet, they leave indelible marks on the human spirit.


Marnie C. Ferree