Paperwork: It’s important to realize the importance of ‘important’

A cardinal takes two kernels of safflower seed in its beak as it visits a bird feeder in an Ogle County yard.

I did something important today.

It was a small thing. Not for me in particular, but it made me feel good.

That’s not a bad goal for each day. Do something important. Feel good.

I guess that’s the catch. There’s that sticky word ... “important.” It lands on you with its nobility and it won’t go away. You are forced to define it.

I wake every day to a world in need. Cries for help surround us. All that need for human concern and caring huddles under that umbrella we call important.

Lonny Cain

I was shaped and overwhelmed by the 1960s. We Boomers are taunted now by catchphrases that we shouted and put on T-shirts to wake up the world.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Yeah. That’s the one that makes me wonder what I should be adding to the daily contract that demands I give more than I take. You know, to make the world a better place.

What should be on my “important” daily do list?

Important. But important to whom? Maybe that’s the real catch. Why “important” can be a tricky and sticky word. What’s important to me does not dictate importance to you. Or the world in general.

I have no solution to this dilemma. And perhaps it’s just my problem. So this is how I find myself dealing with it. And why what I’m writing is likely just an apology. To all those who see me as part of the problem.

Because that small, important thing I did today, that made me feel great, was this: I filled my bird feeder. I fulfilled a promise that began when I put up the feeder. Giving a multitude of winged friends hope – not to mention a couple of obsessed squirrels.

Most likely they see only food and would just go elsewhere if it weren’t there. But they do flock to that spilling splendor of seed after it filled. If they don’t feel joy, I certainly do.

A simple task. And in my world ... my backyard ... it’s important. To me. I’m sorry, but sometimes that’s what matters the most. Feeding the little things that are important to me.

That’s sound so cold. Even though it’s true. I’m beginning to realize what I am writing is also an apology to myself. Or some form of forgiveness. For not doing more to feed the hungry also close to my home.

Sometimes the words I start pushing begin pulling. I stop telling and they take over the talking and take me down a different path. I started writing this to show how little things also have importance in our lives. But it feels more like an excuse for ignoring what’s beyond my hedges. I’ve typed myself into a corner. Trapped by my own thoughts.

“It’s OK, it’s OK.” I can tell myself that all day. Every day. But I can still hear those words. And they feel important.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His PaperWork email is Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.