I grew up not having to worry about much except doing well in school. My parents never made a lot of money, but they were happy with their lot. My job was to get good grades, get a good education and find a decent paying job to support myself. Until I married, that was my focus.
Once I was married and had children, my responsibilities increased. I had responsibilities to my wife, my children, and then to my community. I had household expenses, medical expenses, loans and mortgages, tuition for Jewish day schools and then money for college, charities and many other activities. Over time, the list of responsibilities grew. A few were critical, but most of them were just part of living.
As my life unfolded, it occurred to me that most of my responsibilities had some degree of importance, but their importance was not life threatening, or a serious medical, legal or financial issue. Of course, there were issues related to death. My parents both died, but I had no control over preventing their deaths. I lost other relatives, and all I could do was attend their funerals and be sympathetic to those alive.
Regarding money, I had enough for my family to do what my wife and I could afford. I followed the practice of my father, who told me that he could not send me to an expensive university, so I went to schools my parents could afford.
For my children, we did what we could afford. For travel, for vacations, for charities, for clothing, and for housing, we made decisions that we could afford without feeling jealous of anyone else. My parents lived on much less income than my own family, so I could do more for my family than they could do for me.
Over the years, I decided that most of the things that I had to do were not worth getting upset about. Here are a few examples: if I missed taking out the garbage cans; if I got a parking ticket or a speeding ticket; if I had a cold; if I hurt myself and didn’t need a doctor; if I failed to lose weight; if my haircut was not right; if the food in the restaurant was too cold, or late or had no taste; if my child was not an A student; if my clothes did not fit; if the traffic was horrendous; if I had a car accident and no one was hurt; if there was a leak in the roof; if I missed a TV show; if I missed an appointment; if I missed a phone call; and a hundred other things.
Most of my life today is small stuff, so why be upset or angry or disappointed if it doesn’t work out perfectly? The garbage will be picked up; the parking ticket will be paid; the cold and my hurt will clear up; my weight is my weight; there are other restaurants; I will still love my child regardless of his marks in school; the traffic is the traffic; the car can be repaired; the house can be repaired; the missed TV show will not change my life; the missed appointment can be rescheduled; and the phone call that was missed can be called later or not at all.
I live in a great country. There is no war here. I know anti-Semitism exists, but I am not on the front lines doing something about it. I support Israel strongly, but I am not in a position to be directly involved. Those are big issues, but in my day-to-day living, most of what is required of me is small stuff, and that small stuff is not worth getting upset about if it is not done on time or perfectly.
I put people ahead of religion, family ahead of business, and optimism ahead of worry. I do worry about a few things, but there are only a few things that are critically important, and I am in action about them. The other 98 percent is small stuff. Ask yourself, whatever the issue, does it really matter to be upset about it?
The bottom line: Don’t sweat the small stuff; it can be a way of life.