top of page

"Don't sweat the small stuff"

December 6, 2023

I had a dream the other night that we were back in the US. Nothing earth-shattering happened, but in the dream we were having some sort of car trouble, and we were over-committed with a million activities and perceived obligations. I could feel the proverbial hamster wheel spinning under me and everyone was short tempered and stressed out. I remember thinking in the dream, "Why is this so hard? Life in Honduras is so much simpler and I really want to be back there."

I woke up pondering this question and that it's very possible that we do it to ourselves…we make life more complicated and harder than it needs to be.

For years I've heard the expression, "Don't sweat the small stuff", but when we're steeped in an over-commercialized, go-go-go culture with no perspective of how the rest of the world lives, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as what the small stuff actually is because it all seems so monumental. How many of us over-assign value to things that really don't deserve that level of importance? I know I always do! But when one's thoughts are whether or not there will be electricity or running water today, or if the roads will be too flooded to get to school, it becomes obvious that aside from the basics, it is ALL small stuff. Thanks to this missionary experience, I am slowly learning this life lesson that I wish I'd learned decades ago.

I think about the things I used to get preoccupied with at home. One small example is meal planning or what to make for dinner on a particular night, or when I would find time to go to the grocery store amidst my super "busy" life. That's a luxury that just doesn't exist in many places. Here, we eat what is available - rice, beans, eggs, tortillas, in-season produce, a ration of chicken parts once a week, pork chops once a week. The plethora of choices we have back home, even in the smallest of grocery stores, simply doesn't exist here. I think about the simplicity of this aspect of life here and again, I feel like for years we've over complicated things. But why? Does more variety correlate to more comfort or more happiness? I really don't think so. In my experience, people are much happier here than we ever were back home, and it's a more profound joy - a contentment that comes from being satisfied with what they have and not always wanting more. It's being appreciative of what they have because they don't know if they'll still have it tomorrow.

The girls sorting beans before cooking them, and our weekly ration of vegetables in the background.

I think about the entire dresser full of table linens I had in the States, not to mention the bins of seasonal decor for every holiday or time of year. Here, we have one set of placemats that I brought with us, that we put on the table when the other missionaries or Hondurans come to our house for dinner. Setting those out, and lighting the lone candle in the center of the table, makes it feel special. Those same placemats never elicited those feelings at home, when they were one set in an endless mound of others. In the absence of an excess of choices, they have increased exponentially in value. I think about our super simple Advent decor this year - colored crepe paper tied around plain white candles, with palm fronds from our yard, and a hand-carved Mary and Joseph we acquired while in Guatemala. But it's so special!

I feel like we've over complicated other things as well. I think about the playroom full of toys my kids had when they were little that, let's be honest, they rarely played with. How much actual happiness or joy or thankfulness did that bring to their lives? Certainly very little compared to the kids here, whose lives consist of going to school half the day, doing chores, washing their own clothes, and then finding joy in simple play. It's a single soccer ball shared among 6 boys, or playing outdoors with sticks and rocks, or catching crabs and finding coconuts. It's the 3-year old next door who got two little trucks for his birthday and they haven't left his tiny hands in the entire 2 months I've known him. It's the way I always wished my kids had played, if only I'd had the courage as a young mother to say no to devices and force them to sit in their boredom in order to become creative in entertaining themselves. But no parent wants to see their kids sit in the discomfort. We've lost the value of that as a society, and as a result, kids don't know how to be bored and spark creativity.

Tess playing around with one of the boys on the Campo.

Finca boys enjoying fresh coconuts.

What about how we've over-complicated our wardrobes?! Every season, I'd cull through my closet and donate or trash clothes I never wore. NEVER wore. Extra. Surplus. That simply doesn't exist in so many parts of the world. Does a closet full of clothes we never wear, plus constantly accumulating more of them, make us happier? I really don't think so. One year for Lent, I decided to wear the same long-sleeve black T-shirt every day as a sacrifice - to embrace simplicity and humility and take the focus off vanity. So I bought 4 of the same black shirt so I'd always have one clean, and that's what I did. But by the end of 40 days, it wasn't a sacrifice! I LOVED wearing the same shirt every day and not even having to think about it. It allowed my mind to be occupied with other more important things. So maybe that's the key to joyfulness. Eliminate the unnecessary choices and focus on the things that really matter.

For the people here in Honduras and in many parts of the world, they don't have to work on eliminating those unnecessary choices because they don't exist for them in the first place. They don't agonize over which school to attend, what food to eat each week, which outfit to wear, or which neighborhood they should live in. But as Americans, we really do have to work at it to recognize those things and to minimize their importance. The overabundance of choices that we've been conditioned to believe bring us more happiness, in reality create more anxiety and rob us of joy.

My challenge to anyone reading this, and my prayer for you, is to eliminate one small unnecessary choice in your life. Maybe that's getting rid of things in your wardrobe you never wear and blessing someone less fortunate with those items, or making simpler meals for your family so you can spend the extra time and energy enjoying their company instead, or committing to buying fewer Christmas gifts this year and giving that money to someone in need, or donating toys your kids never play with - just living with LESS. Embrace simplicity in one small area, and lean into the joy that can bring, especially as we head into the abundance of the holiday season. Tell yourself not to sweat the small stuff, and remind yourself that a LOT of what we are concerned with is the small stuff.

Vivian's favorite spot for doing her schoolwork. ❤️

Please comment below with any ways we can pray for you in this season of preparation for our Lord's birth, and may you have a beautiful and fruitful Advent.

Hasta la próxima,



253 views3 comments




Your story is beautiful. St. Mother Teresa is smiling in heaven, I would imagine. Simplifying life sounds easier than it is, especially, "at the most wonderful time of the year." Your advice is sound. I will certainly take heed of it. The adage "less is more" rings true in your story. Thank you for bringing sense back into the season. Anxiety related to the more, the things, the busy life, the schedule, certainly is not of God. Many blessings to you and your lovely family. You all remain in our prayers. ☺️



Beautifully said, Shannon. It's unfortunate that we are so afraid to uncomplicate our lives. Just when I think, I'm going to pare down anything, fear of missing something takes over. God's blessings to you all!


Kathy Manchester
Kathy Manchester

Thank you Shannon for this all important message, especially at this season of loving and giving. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas to you and the family.


Hi! We're Pat & Shannon.

We have a passion for education and a heart for service. Our goal is to make a global impact beyond our local community.

bottom of page