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“Work as if every little thing you do makes a difference. It does.”

It’s all about the little things that you do, Coach tells me. It is never about that one perfect workout you got in, or that day you ran the farthest that counts.

Sooner or later, you come to realise that it is the sum of all those runs that you relentlessly got in day after day after day that got you to where you stand today.

It is the little things that made all the difference.

I wake up to the sound of the rain still pattering against the roof. The rumble of the thunder in the distance. Again.

It has rained all night.

Being in the countryside, there are nights when you fall asleep under a spellbinding galaxy of stars – and then, there are nights when the roll of thunder rattles the windowpanes, threatening to bring the house down.

Rather reluctantly, I pull myself out of the sheets.

It is the kind of weather where you would rather stay tucked in bed, listening to the rhythm of the raindrops. Sipping hot brewed coffee. Reading under the golden glow of the bedside lamp. Warm and dry.

It is almost 5:30am, and yet, pitch dark outside and no electricity inside.

I fumble in the dark looking for a candle. A strike of the match, and the room comes to life. The tiny flame of the candle bathes the room in yellow flickering light, as I lace up.

The tiny flame. The little things.

The old wooden door creaks in protest as I head out. Still dark. A flash of lightning momentarily lights up the street in front of me. Not a soul in sight. It looks cold, damp and forbidding. Thunder, again. Like an omen.

I stand outside the door for a long time wondering why I am doing this.

Five minutes into the run and I will be drenched to the very shoes. And remain like that for an hour. Moreover, it is just supposed to be an easy run. I can make up for it when it is dry. In the evening, maybe? The world is sleeping. I can just skip the run. I am not answerable to anybody. I can just go back to the warm, beckoning bed.

And I take the first step. Forward. Into the rain.

If in these easy runs the little things really matter, then so be it.

If getting out was hard, running in this weather is twice as tough. It feels like running into a storm with pelting raindrops. They sting the bare parts of my body as I run. On the face. On the neck. On the arms. Everywhere.

It is impossible to look straight ahead. Head bent low, I push through the headwind.

This isn’t fun at all.

Almost halfway into the run I spot a tiny figure ahead of me. Shielding my eyes from the rain, I look closely.

It is a small boy. Probably a farmer’s kid from the neighbourhood – draped in a cape made from a half-torn plastic sheet, he is bending over on the road, alone, all by himself, even as the strong coastal winds rip through the surrounding farmlands.

I never stop on a run. But this time, curiosity got the better of me.

“What are you doing?” I slow down to a halt next to him.

“Saving earthworms…” he replies in colloquial Gujarati.

“Saving what…?”

“Earthworms!”

That is when I see them. Every few meters ahead of me, there are earthworms lying scattered on the road – some dead, some half dead, some wriggling battling to survive, half of their bodies flattened by the occasionally passing vehicles.

“My mother said earthworms help the seeds grow faster, so I am saving them from the vehicles and putting them in my farm, so that my father doesn’t have to work so hard!”

“If I don’t save them,” he adds, with an unmistakable ring of emergency in his tone, “they will all die…” his voice trails off as he gets back to work.

I watch as he runs to the road, picks up a wriggling worm with a stick, and tosses it to the side, only to return for the next worm.

Wow. This was a lot of work. It was a long stretch of road. At this rate, it could be a week until he was done.

I laugh to myself. “How many worms will you be able to save?” I ask him, smiling with pity.

In reply he holds up his stick, displaying the worm he has just rescued. “At least I saved this boy!”

I feel a catch in my throat. I am unable to respond. I am left standing there, stunned by what he just said. He was half my height. I had at least three feet and two decades worth of wisdom on him. And yet I am flabbergasted by how strongly he believes every small thing he does, makes a difference.

At least I saved this boy! 

You did, young man, you did. You saved him.

You made a difference to his life. You made a difference to your father’s farm. However small it might be.

I wish I had something to offer the young lad. A candy. Or an energy bar. But he is gone. Gone to save the next worm.

The unceasing rain is still pattering over my head. The cold wind is chilling my spine. The thunder roars again above me.

A faint smile spreads across my lips as I bend down, pick up a worm and toss it over to the side of the road.

As published on www.the5amguy.com

ABOUT Aditya Shroff,

Aditya Shroff holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the University of Mumbai, India. After passing college with a distinction, he gave up a lucrative career in the corporate world, to move to a simple, minimalistic farm life, and focus on – what he calls – the finer things in life, and follow his passions, which include running, writing, and travelling. Shroff actively participates in various road-running races throughout India, over distances ranging from 5km to 42km. He blogs about his experiences as The 5AM Guy, and hopes to become a published author soon.