Why “Think Small”?

So what is “Think Small”, and why is it so important for our “big city” to return to it?

First of all, I don’t believe the answer for our city is the mega-church, the big box, the wide thoroughfare, the giant retirement home miles away from the grandkids, the sprawling campus, the massive abstract statue, the megaplex, the monolithic international call center, the never-ending parking lot, the “too big to fail” corporation, the mcMansion, the multi-million dollar loan for the next “big thing”, the giant commercial land deal, the imposing government, the enormous hedge fund, or the one-size-fits-all franchise. With time, we’ve kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger..and when that big thing inevitably dies, it leaves giant holes throughout our city.

Quite simply…it’s the little cafe on the corner, the small park with the fountain that the kids play in, the tiny taqueria with the elotes guy beside it, the folk musician on the street corner, the outdoor market filled with tiny stalls that locals bring their wares out on to test their business, the small tree lined street, the little church with the amazing gospel choir, the little theater, the small garden with seniors playing dominos on folding tables, the four-piece mariachi band roaming the outdoor patio, the small tire shop, the intimate italian restaurant with the tiny courtyard, the small dog park you can walk to with your kids, the tucked away swimming hole, the local boy or girl scout troop, the bicycle rides with the kids to school, the greasy spoon diner where the waitress calls you “sweetie”, the small wood-framed house with the great porch,  the outdoor social where the seniors dance to big band music, the little bed and breakfast run by the local who had grown up in the place and knew all of its history, the lemonade stand with the neighborhood kids, the grove of old pecan trees, the sandwich board with the daily specials, the local mechanic that everyone knows and trusts, the neighborhood community garden, the tavern where the old men trade stories with the young business owners, the fruit stand at the end of the block, the baseball game in the street, it’s built locally, it’s the small memorial to the fallen heroes, the incredible snocone stand, the picnic in the park, the local bike shop, barber, bookstore, art gallery and flower shop. It’s 100 small things that creates 1 big thing. It’s where we go when we finally get two weeks off each year from our constant routine to unwind, relax, and dream about our future. It’s where we want to retire. It’s where we want to raise our kids. It’s where we can have our neighborhood parade. It’s universally celebrated by all cultures. It’s a place you don’t have to have a lot of money to still enjoy a great life. It’s where you can afford to start your small business. It’s sustainable. It’s what immediately springs to mind when someone says “America”. It’s where we feel safe. It’s idealistic but far better than the alternative.

Sadly, if you try to bring it back people might call you a “dreamer”, “idealist”, “Utopianist”, or worse. That happens because there’s been a breakdown in our ability to communicate, and all trust has been abandoned. When each big thing failed, it often created larger rifts that separated us from our ability to connect. To make matters worse, when the big things started dying, we all had to throw in together to try and make them stay alive because it was all we knew.

The reality is, none of the small things are hard, impossible, or out of our reach…we just forgot how to do them.

Maybe it’s time we started remembering.


  1. Julie on May 20, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Great piece! I always enjoy your articles.

  2. karla on May 20, 2011 at 11:30 am

    So true, Jason! I want to open a business, the idea is there, I’ve been pursuing education and finding out how and where to make it happen.

    The circumstances make everything take a lot more time than I would like though, with a full time job, a mortgage, and getting everything situated to make this venture come to fruition.

    But I think I can totally do it, there are services that can help people like us to get our loans or grants, we just need get in gear and go for it.

    As people say, the hardest thing to do is to get started, once that happens, it gets better. And before you know it, the pieces fall into place.

  3. Lauren Nitschke on May 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

    You said it brilliantly, Jason! You’ve captured the essence of Oak Cliff and why we all love it so much.

  4. Catherine Dodge on May 20, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Great! Most of all loved your final quote, which is so true: “The reality is, none of the small things are hard, impossible, or out of our reach…we just forgot how to do them.”

  5. Amy on May 20, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Richard Davis is NOT going to appreciate being called a senior citizen! 🙂

  6. Felicia Aguilar on May 20, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Yes! Beautiful, and I agree 100%!

  7. Stephanie Gonzalez on May 20, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Absolutely moving piece! I couldn’t have said it any better than Lauren and Felicia. Beautiful article.

  8. Julie-but not same Julie as above on May 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Printed & Going on my fridge when I get home.

    Great Article!


  9. Julie-but not same Julie as above on May 20, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    I will see you in 10 days Aunt Stella, Hip Hip Horray!

  10. thehiddenlist.com on May 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Well said! Exactly why I live in Oak Cliff and am convinced it’s the best neighborhood on earth!

  11. Nichole Luna on May 20, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    My favorite quote..”It’s 100 small things that creates 1 big thing.” Exactly why I love Oak Cliff.

  12. Charlie Perdue on May 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm


    Very good article and very true. Thank you for writing it.

  13. Tex Tradd on May 25, 2011 at 3:10 am

    This is the best thing I have ever read anyone write from Dallas in the decades I have been paying attention.

    Probably the best writer/thinker exploring these ideas in depth is the farmer-localist Wendell Berry. E. F. Schumacher and Jane Jacobs also rank in the top-tier for those who want to act on the stirring words Jason Roberts has written.

    Until recently, Dallas had a writer named Rod Dreher, who has extensively worked on these themes as part of an attempt to conserve these little but crucial parts of organic communities.

  14. CrackerDaddy on May 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Well said Jason. Well said.

  15. B. Klein on May 25, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Thoughtful and beautifully written. Say it louder so those making some of the decisions hear,

  16. johnliam on May 25, 2011 at 11:33 pm


    Wow. You really nailed it. I love the concept that small is beautiful – not just because it is human scale – but it is also doable. Please keep adding your voice to the meta discussion.