I Just Woke Up This Way

Watching The Little Things We Do

Many years ago, I served a volunteer mission for my church in southern California.  The experience has such an incredibly dramatic impact on me.  It was difficult almost every day and I was out of my comfort zone most of the time!  Collectively it may not have been that fantastic of an event!  However, the little moments added up and transformed me.  It is what happened over time, day after day, that really shaped me and molded me.  I will be forever grateful for my development over the course of those unforgettable two years.

One experience I will never forget was meeting a man I will call “Bob.”  The records said he had enjoyed visits and help from the missionaries in the past.  So, we decided to check in on Bob and see if there was anything we could do for him.  So, hopping on our bicycles, we headed to his neighborhood and knocked on the door.

A young woman wearing a fluorescent blue body suit and too much make-up brusquely answered the door.  Thinking that perhaps we had the wrong address, we introduced ourselves and inquired about Bob.  She mumbled something and motioned for us to come in.  I will never forget meeting Bob for the first time.

Bob was a very large man–over 600 pounds to be exact.  I could not tell for sure at the time, but he looked to be over 6 feet tall.  I could not tell because he was in a large Lazy-boy raised up on a large wood block.  He dwarfed a large walker standing in front of him.  He was (and still is) the biggest person I had ever met!

Bob greeted us with great enthusiasm and invited us to have a seat.  He was delightful!  He had a personality as large as his frame!  He was great to talk to!  He seemed very happy until he shared the health problems plaguing a man so obviously overweight.  He was happy excepting for the fact that he was alone and limited in all he could do.  He whispered that he was embarrassed to have to be taken care of by another person (nodding to the woman who answered the door).

We visited with Bob that day and many other days.  He appreciated the company and enjoyed the various lessons we taught him.  He was grateful for the help we gave him.

Then, after many visits, I was standing near the picture wall in Bob’s living room.  My eyes caught this great black and white photo of a thin young man proudly standing near a classic car.  He was ruggedly handsome and the picture looked like something out of a 1950’s movie!  I inquired about the picture and the identity of this fellow.   Bob replied that he was that man!  He was the young guy in the picture.

It took all the guts I had, but I had to ask him the question.  So, I blurted out, “What happened?”  Bob asked, “Do you mean, how did I get so fat?”  I nodded, embarrassed at my obvious intrusion.  Bob laughed and indicated he was fine with the question.  His reply confused me.

“I just woke up this way!”

Seeing my puzzled look, Bob said again, “One day, I just woke up and weighed over 600 pounds.”

Obviously seeing that I did not understand, Bob explained that when you are not paying attention, it is quite easy for things to change.  He said he gained a little weight here and there over days and weeks and months.  He reported that when you do this over and over again–making no changes–you can easily gain a ton of weight!  He said small changes over time really do add up.   He was a living example of this!  I have never forgotten Bob or this lesson!

Little things can really add up to big things–really big things.  For good or ill, the little things we do each day are shaping us–sometimes literally.  It has been said that the door of history swings on small hinges.  This is so very true.  What we do little by little adds up to something quite large and significant.

I will never forget Gordon B. Hinckley describing his experience working at the railroad in Denver. He took the angry call from the train station somewhere in the northeast United States.  The man on the other end demanded to know why there was no baggage car with the train that had just arrived. The passengers had none of their things.  It was a bad situation.

After much research and searching, young Gordon learned that a careless switchman had flipped the wrong switch and the baggage car headed thousands of miles off course, ending up somewhere in Louisiana.  A two-inch switch flipped the wrong way sent a baggage cart over thousands of miles off course.  After reflection, Gordon was amazed that such a small switch could create such a big challenge.

So it is with life.  It really is the little things that make the difference.  The little switches we flip each day are setting a course for us.  Each little bit of life experience we choose creates a change in us and shapes our life (and perhaps our figure!).  It may be that a small thing is never really a small thing.

These lessons have helped me to stop every now and then and ask myself “Where are you headed?”  I might also ask myself, “Is there anything I am doing right now that might turn into something bigger later?”  In short, I am trying to determine if this little switch might take me off course down the road. I wonder to myself where this or that so-called little habit may lead.

Granted I am not anywhere near perfect, but I have come to see that not one of us “just woke up this way.”  In large part, for better or for worse, we are the sum of the little things we do each day.  There is no small thing when added up over time.  There are no insignificant switches to be flipped.  Little things, little choices, little decisions all mean something big in the long run.

Perhaps we all need to take more time to pay attention to the little things we do each day. For they are shaping who we become.


Jim R. Jacobs
Jim R. Jacobs
Jim R Jacobs is a brave creator who strives to do mighty things! Jim is a Certified Daring Way Facilitator helping others to live more brave and authentic lives! He is the author of Driving Lessons For Life: Thoughts on Navigating Your Road to Personal Growth. Jim speaks professionally, and coaches others to success and living with integrity. He is a counselor, educator, innovator, father, and friend. Please check out Jim R. Jacobs and Driving Lessons For Life and find Jim on social media! Let's connect and dare mighty things!

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  1. Maybe it was because you began with talking about being a missionary, but throughout your article my mind reflected on the idea of being “green” like a “greenie” missionary. I like things that are green, maybe partly because green things seem to grow while ripe things start to rot! Green things, including green people, have attributes of stretching and growing. They are often low to the ground–humble. Thus, like your article implies, I think if we stay “low,” we are more likely to not wake up and be disgusted by what has become of us. We will not “binge” on things of no matter. We will be low enough, green enough to yield to needed correction and change throughout the course of our lives.