I was on a plane recently. (It seems like I've been on a lot of planes recently; I think God is always saying, "The joke's on you!" He gave a woman who hates to shop 7 daughters and a confirmed homebody countless compelling reasons to travel!)

The plane's departure was delayed due to a small issue – not anything wrong with the plane's mechanism per se but with the netting that helps hold the baggage – a relatively insignificant detail.

It took quite a while for the replacement part to be delivered to the plane and then a few minutes to install it. In the end we were about an hour late taking off and I confess I felt a little frustrated. Why did it take so long to bring the piece? And was it really necessary? Couldn't we have flown without it? I mean engine parts I understand, but netting?

Then I got to thinking: maybe it's actually the small parts that make all the difference.

Most of our lives, most of our personalities, most of our relationships aren't built on grand actions. Most of us aren't curing cancer, winning Nobel prizes or being elected President.

But we could be the ones who are shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, inviting our single friend over for dinner, bringing groceries to a sick acquaintance or calling a discouraged colleague to cheer them up.

It's the small "parts", the seemingly trivial acts that actually make the difference, that make us who we are.

We may not be winning the Olympics (or the Super Bowl) or eradicating malaria or eliminating poverty but we can drive our neighbor to the store when his car breaks down, bring chicken soup to the older gentleman who lives alone, babysit for the frazzled mother down the block or mentor a disadvantaged child.

It's easy to get fooled, to think that if we're not making a big impact it's not worth doing. It's easy to get blinded by the bling, the trophies, the awards. It's easy to forget that the small things really count, that our lives are made up of countless small acts – hopefully of kindness. But when we look back on the life we've lived, it will be the accumulation of those small parts that speak to us, and of us.

I'm still not happy that my plane was delayed. But I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect, for the "minor" repair that could lead to a "major" change.