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Melissa Weiler Gerber

Melissa Weiler Gerber could talk for hours about the issues she's passionate about: human rights, homelessness, economic disparity (particularly among women), and social activism. She's been president of the advocacy and funding organization Women's Way since 1999, and she jokingly recalls that she has always aspired to "save the world." Being organized, focused and somewhat obsessive about how things work, Wiler-Gerber says, is a big help in her work and her life.

I believe in details. I know this runs counter to well-meaning advice that seeks to liberate us from sweating the little stuff. I am painfully aware that my conviction places me at risk for lost sleep and moments of distraction. Dare I say it may even make this forty-one-year old a bit old-fashioned. So be it.

It's in my blood. My grandmothers remembered everyone's birthday and acknowledged all sicknesses, deaths, weddings and other major life events with hand-written notes. My father, a lawyer and one-time English teacher, edited my early writing diligently, and, along with my 9th grade grammar teacher, instilled in me the importance of a comma, the difference one word choice can make. My mother wrote a special message on the paper napkin in my lunch box each birthday during every school year.

Details bring me joy - the feel of quality paper, the heft of a rocks glass, the foam on a well-made latte. These are little gifts that lift my spirit and elevate ordinary experiences. But I also recognize that my commitment to particulars has a dark side. I feel compelled to try on three pairs of the same size jeans before making my final choice. I have to read every greeting card in the store to find just the right one. Discovering I've committed a typo nearly kills me...

Yes, it's hard work to focus on details, but focus I must, for details are fleeting - the circumstances of a first kiss, a lost loved one's laugh,that shortcut we always used to take. Unless purposefully tended to, the components of even the most important of life's events are apt to fade, and then disappear.

Ok, I'm a bit obsessed, but let's face it, it's the sum of all these details that add up to the whole person we are - the eyeglass frames we select, the unique flair of our signature, our choice of seat on a rollercoaster - these things provide each of us with our own unique identity. They tell the world in a million tiny ways who we are, what we value.

This is why those little things play such an important role in relationships. Taking the time to notice, acknowledge and recall details makes those around us feel appreciated and understood. We draw on the best of our humanity when we slow down enough to listen - really listen - to a story being told. I certainly notice when someone does that for me.

And so, I pledge to try my best to remember whether you like the toilet paper to roll under or over, whether you are a cat or dog person, and the date of that big birthday you have coming up. I'll be grateful if you remember that my ears are not pierced, I like peppermint tea, and chocolate is always the right answer. Yes, I believe in details.