Service of It Matters

July 13th, 2015

Categories: Details, It Matters, Teachers, Uncategorized, Value Added, Work

It matters




You can be the most sensitive person in the universe and still be innocently and inadvertently indifferent to something that’s significant to another person.

A friend teaches a reading class to six first graders. Each has a book and there’s one for her. When the class was over one day, the smallest child in the class asked if she could please carry the books back to the homeroom. My friend, who reminded me that children this age love to be helpful, said thanks but that it didn’t matter as another child was doing it. The diminutive child looked her in the eye and said, “It matters to me.” So my friend asked the other child if she’d share the “load.” The child handed three of the books to her classmate, keeping the rest for herself. The little one beamed all the way back to homeroom.

In a vastly different scenario, Jim Brownell said to me: “This is a dump but it doesn’t have to look like one.” I’d just admired the transformation of the Millbrook, N.Y. transfer station [photo below]. As you approach it now there are three flags–American, Army and Marine–posted in a generous bed of mulch they’d installed. Brownell and Joseph Magnarella, who is in the photo, are the transfer attendants responsible for the makeover. Brownell is a Marine [on NCIS I learned once a Marine, always a Marine]; Magnarella is former Army.

When I first noticed the makeover, only the American flag and two poles were in place. Brownell expected the other two flags shortly. I left work early July 3—the dump is only open three days a week—to grab a photo for this post and only two flags flew. I asked Brownell for permission to take a photo and explained the nature of my post. He suggested I wait for the missing Marine flag, especially in light of the title. “It matters,” he said. [He was on vacation the day I returned for the photo.]

Can you share examples of something insignificant that nevertheless mattered a lot to you or to someone else? How about employees who go above and beyond because where they work–and how it looks–matters to them?

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

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5 Responses to “Service of It Matters”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Must be having a bad hair day, or it’s just too pretty out to think of anything worthwhile. Take your choice, folks — all significant thoughts are on leave!

  2. SEPTIMIUS Said:

    My two years of compulsory military service may not have been entirely pleasant, but at least it was in peacetime. I don’t regret it and learned a lot including that when someone does something good and decent and wishes to honor what they have done, don’t begrudge them for their pride.

    Not much that goes on in most of our lives is really meaningful, and to observe these two men putting their memorial together is heartwarming.

    When I served, I was a private but one of only seven college graduates, including officers, in my Military Police battalion of about 500 men. My service could have been a disaster, but I was lucky enough to be able to work closely with a capable sergeant, a career army man who had never been near a college. We spent about a year a half, devising an evacuation plan for U.S. dependents from southern Bavaria in the event the Russians invaded. It was a complicated, but interesting task, and we did it well.

    Towards the end of the job, one day he asked me if I knew anything about freemasonry. (The masons were then a big deal in the military and you had to ask to join, you weren’t invited.) This was a veiled invitation and I felt deeply honored by it as I have by anything that has happened to me since.

    It was a small thing, but for me a big one. Me, the arrogant college grad being asked by an NCO to join his lodge.

    Small things do matter.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I didn’t make it clear because the hill of flags was such a stunning addition to the transfer station, but the entire area was spiffed up and looked handsome. Or maybe everything was just the same and the addition gave the entire place a new look.

    It’s unusual that people get recognized as you were by a boss. I wonder if you were really as arrogant one-on-one as you thought you were.

  4. Kathleen Said:

    Actually, I have two stories like Jeanne’s about a little child and a transfer station, both of which prove that it does matter. A family in a nearby summer cottage had a beagle they walked. When a young (maybe 4 or 5) grandchild came for a visit, she wanted to walk the dog. Solution: two leashes, one held by Grandma, the other by the child, who felt important that she was walking the dog. It did matter that she got to be a big girl and walk the beagle. The opposite result comes from the recycling story. Washington County recently gave up running their transfer stations, which operated three days a week. The private concern that runs them cut the days to two (they tried for one, but it did matter to citizens, so they’re back to two) and the personnel are not as helpful, nor are the surroundings as clean as when Washington County ran the transfer station. People notice, do complain, so it does matter.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I LOVE the double leash. Watching young children pass trays of cookies or hors-d’oeuvres or bowls filled with peanuts, holding them at a slant because they are too heavy, just a stumble away from the whole thing landing on the carpet, or who clear the [best porcelain] dishes that are also cumbersome for their small hands is an important step to be encouraged as it is charming and nerve-racking. When my nephews and nieces were small I held my breath, smiled and thanked.

    One year I was alone at either Thanksgiving or Christmas giving the party for the extended family–20 or more. I don’t think my nephews ever knew that I saw what happened: They were trying to carve the turkey in the kitchen on a counter above which I had a lineup of hanging plants. One of the plants fell on the turkey [Shenanigans, perhaps?]. I started to walk in the kitchen as I saw the boys dusting earth off the turkey and restoring the plant to its hook above. I retreated, said nothing, grateful that they were trying so hard to help me and mostly succeeding.

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