Small Solutions

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Sweat crept its way down my forehead as I connected the last wire to the motherboard. For hours, I had been working on building this computer, and with my middle-school operating budget, there wasn’t any room for error. Everything had to work, and it was going to. Determination was essential for this activity. Focusing was hard enough for me at that age, but I had set a goal to build this for my friend Max, and nothing was going to stop me. I had done this before, so error wasn’t even on my mind. I stood up and stretched out my back, after having been hunched over a table for a near eternity. Finally done, I thought.

I quickly set up a monitor to connect to the computer. I pushed the power button, but the familiar sound of whirring fans did not fill the room, nor did the flicker of indicator lights brighten the computer tower. My heart sank. I was supposed to be the expert. Nothing was supposed to go wrong. Not only was I disappointed that my creation did not work, but I was also dismayed to have let someone down. All I wanted to do was give my friend this gift of technology.

Just as most kids in this age of technology faced with a problem, Max and I took to Google. I tried every possible solution. I checked every wire and every small detail that could lead to such dysfunction, but nothing changed.

While I was focused on finding anything that could aid me to fix the computer, I ignored Max’s dad, who was fiddling with the wires inside the computer. He was old, at least from our perspective, so he couldn’t have known anything about technology. No more than thirty seconds later, we heard the whirring of fans that we had been longing to hear. This ancient man fixed my failure of a machine with no more than a jiggle of a wire.

Often, I am faced with a problem that brings me back to that day. If an obstacle arises, I am reminded that the solution to any seemingly insurmountable problem may be as simple as “jiggling the wires”. Retrospect is an important virtue. Having it illuminate my life at a younger age has helped me to effectively solve problems – looking at every solution, big and small, in as calm a manner as possible.

Today, thinking back on that moment, I am reminded of the adage: big things come in small packages. Small things make big changes. One person can change the world. I want to be that change. Yes, I’m one human amidst a world of problems, but I can act with the confidence that whatever small impact I may have on the world, I can create bigger changes.

Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, I was a part of several small forces of change. I was given tasks such as painting a door or sanding a railing. These were small additions to the project, but when I witnessed the big finale – the finished house – I realized that it wouldn’t have been finished without my contributions, and now a family in need had a place to call home. I had made a huge impact with such minuscule contributions. This time I jiggled the wire.

It’s the little things, I have learned, that make the big things possible. Sometimes when faced with adversity or obstacles, all we need is to jiggle the wires. Doing something seemingly insignificant can change the bigger picture in amazing ways.

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