The Little Things

      Comments Off on The Little Things

Bobby Leach yearned to be the first man ever to survive a plunge over Niagara Falls.
In 1911, the 53-year-old British stuntman, who had once made his living performing with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, created a special “barrel” – actually a metal tube with a removable hatch – that he believed would take him safely over the 167-foot precipice of Horseshoe Falls.
Leach knew that he wouldn’t be the first person to pull off such a stunt.  That honor had been claimed 10 years earlier by a hardy 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor.  Ms. Taylor, who hoped a sufficiently spectacular feat might financially secure her retirement, opted for a large oak barrel. 
On October 22, 1901, she decided it would be wise to find out if the barrel could actually survive such a descent.  A cat was recruited to be the test pilot.  After the cat and the barrel were recovered intact at the base of the falls, she climbed in two days later (which happened to be her birthday) and took the plunge.  Taylor emerged bleeding but alive, memorably suggesting, “No one ought ever do that again.”  The cat’s impressions were not recorded. 
Taylor’s success launched a series of dramatic attempts to “conquer the falls.”  The mania continues to this day, despite heavy fines being levied on would-be thrill-seekers. 
Law enforcement officials estimate that since the 1850s at least 5,000 people have been swept over the falls into the Niagara gorge.  The vast majority of these incidents have been accidents or suicide attempts.  Only 16 people are known to have survived.  Five of that number, incredibly, went over the falls with no boat or special protection of any kind.
When Bobby Leach squeezed into his metal cylinder and pushed off into the upper Niagara on July 25, 1911, he figured he would at least survive the fall.  He did, although at significant cost.  When he was pulled from his contraption downriver, he was bruised and bleeding, with a broken jaw, broken ribs, and a pair of fractured kneecaps. 
Although he spent almost half a year in the hospital recovering from his injuries, he was exultant.  For the next decade and a half Leach traded on his notoriety as a daredevil.  That’s Bobby posing with his barrel in the photo above.  
He never anticipated, however, what would happen on a publicity tour in New Zealand in 1926.
Leach was strolling down a public street in Auckland when he slipped on an orange peel.  He injured his leg.  The open wound became infected.  Complications set in.  He ended up in a hospital where he succumbed to the infection two months later.    
The man who had conquered the world’s most famous waterfall was taken down by an orange peel.
Little things can have big consequences.
Little habits, little resentments, and little hurts, if unaddressed, have the potential to derail big plans and big dreams.  Like Bobby Leach, we may have so much confidence that we can overcome the greatest threats that we become oblivious to the trivial ones right in front of us. 
So guard your life.  Treat little things as big deals. 
Watch your words.  Tell the truth.  Don’t make rash promises. 
Refuse to fudge your taxes.  Clean up your internet browsing habits.  Give money to someone in need.  Go out of your way to make someone’s day.
Character isn’t forged by dramatic, headline-grabbing moments.  It is shaped by a thousand little choices that will happen between now and next Monday. 
The more we take “baby steps” with Jesus – faithfully doing one little thing after another – the more likely we are to sidestep that orange peel hiding just around the corner.