Doing the things that “don’t matter” matters

I saw a little girl on the train this morning who had just ate a KitKat. As is the problem with most chocolate bars, a residue of chocolate is left everywhere. Post snack, her mom pulled out some wipes to clean off the little girl’s hands and mouth. Once she was all clean, the little grabbed the wipe and began to clean her dolls face as though she too just ate a KitKat. The doll wasn’t dirty, but the girl insisted on helping her out. She didn’t have to, and doing so really didn’t matter, but in a way it actually did matter.

It showed a certain commitment to character and reveal an underlying ethical system. In watching this scenario, I couldn’t help but think what if parents didn’t let her do this? What affect would that have on her? What if her parent began instilling her that little things like that didn’t matter? How would she grow up differently?

Watching this small act of kindness reminded me that sometimes the things that don’t matter can actually matter. As we grow older—and simply as designers—it’s as though our logic combined with our commitment to efficiency blinds us. When you’re senselessly objective in your thinking, you’re likely dismissing the integral details you assumed didn’t matter because, in a way, they don’t. Meaning, you grow up being the child that doesn’t help clean up their doll, hold the door for their imaginary friend, feel a sense of responsibility which extends beyond themselves, or have a sense of empathy or imagination.