A Vice-Chairman at a company I once worked for was legendary for reading every page of a presentation you sent him. He would read the introduction, appendices, and even the footnotes. I thought it was an urban myth until the first time I presented a paper to him. On the second page, he interrupted me and asked about the connection between my second comment (bullet), an appendix chart, and a footnote near the middle of the document. He found an insightful connection. He said that he had not seen this before reading our presentation. He went on to ask us what led us to draw our conclusions and capture the link.
In general, I get lost in fine print. Usually, I am either caught up in the details. When I do not do this, I react and go to the other end of the spectrum. I ignore them.
Increasingly I find myself reading footnotes and appendices. They tell a story that most miss, including my normal self. These bit of trivia are also found in conversations when you least expect it. Recent examples include a new colleague’s hometown and an invitation to visit him there. Another colleague is celebrating a major anniversary on his next holiday. Still another restores wooden telephone booths; Australian ones that look a lot like English. There are subtle differences of course!
As I read a story, the author notes how “We boarded a ship from Adramyttium that was bound for Ephesus and ports west. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went with us.” (Acts 27.2) I am missing the footnotes. What was the city like? Who was the Macedonian? Why did he join the group?
Even as my mind wanders, I realize that life’s details tell the story. Paying attention gives me the opportunity to understand and learn. Making sure they reflect my values and priorities connects me with my heart. I had forgotten the connection. I was missing the whisper. Seeing and hearing are gates that open up to new possibilities. They seem small, metaphoric footnotes. They tell a bigger story.