It’s the little things we say and do
That give me hope we’ll make it through
Like some kindness to a stranger when you know it’s right
Or pulling someone out of darkness back into the light.

It’s the little things, it doesn’t take much
A smile, a word, a gentle touch
A call, a card, a sentimental notion
Can set so much good in motion.

It’s the little things, I swear it is
Nothing is worth more
Do something nice for someone
And feel your heart begin to soar.

It’s the little things, don’t you agree?
They tie us to the family tree
It’s our world, let’s take it back
We can make it better, that’s a fact.

Is it enough to just survive?
To live your life half-alive?
Observe the magic kindness brings
Oh, yes, it’s the little things.

So many things have come to pass
So many things that didn’t last
But it’s the little things, if you will
They bring the longest-lasting thrills.

It’s the little things, don’t you think?
Ah, that’s the missing link
I guess you could say I’m square
But being cool never got me anywhere.

I was broke, out of money, with limited English classes to teach, wondering who or what would rescue me this time. A retired, divorced bank employee who called herself Lavender had rented me a room in her small, tidy house on a narrow side street in a village I called ‘The Middle of Nowhere,’ somewhere between Osaka and Kyoto.

From experience, she had decided to rent exclusively to men. “Women are too difficult. They create trouble and problems,” she had said, more than once. Also, she preferred her male boarders speak English, so she could improve her language skills.

Lavender was frugal but generous. In the “genkan”, the entrance to the house, there was a coin-operated pay phone. In Japan, at that time, you paid by the minute to talk. At the same time, she regularly offered to share whatever meals or snacks she had prepared, with the unspoken intention, I think, that either I or the South American guy who had the other room would speak English with her. English classes can be expensive in Japan.

Everything in my 10,000 yen ($100) a week room, with the freshly-painted walls and fragrant tatami mats on the floor, was new, including the luxurious futon, fluffy white comforter and just about the best pillow I ever laid my head on.

It was in this oasis on an early-autumn afternoon in 1993 that I sat in a chair and laid my notebook and pen on a wooden desk to ponder the view outside through the open window. Yes, it was true, I had to admit, I didn’t have even the round-trip fare to take the local train into the city. I would have to teach a class to earn the money to return home.

However, as I surveyed and smelled the rich brown earth and meticulously-weeded raised rows of robust root vegetable green tops, pungent onions and herbs and the riotous blaze of various flowers, a profound feeling of gratitude filled me.

And the words of “The Little Things,” as if fated or programmed, flowed out of me in one glorious wave of words which I surfed onto the blank page. I hardly edited a line or changed a word.

Gratitude had never seemed so profound or important, as it trumped my (all of a sudden) trivial financial concerns. Indeed, “The Little Things,” an affirmation from Heaven.