When I worked at Ummeed Child Development Center, where we worked with children with disabilities and their families, all staff got together during one quarterly meeting to ideate on, design and develop a document called ‘Acts of Care’. These are simple things, the small acts of kindness, that make a difference to the lives of the children and families we work with, and our lives as well. Included in this list were giving the families a reminder call a day before the scheduled appointment, asking them if they would like a glass of water as they came in from the hot sun, or even checking if a colleague wanted to share a cup of coffee in the pantry.
As I think about relationships, whether they are romantic, familial or friendships, I realise that a large part of their success depends on these acts of care. Films worldwide romanticize the idea of the ‘big’ gesture – proposing in a hot air balloon hundreds of miles above the earth, friends who joined at the hip, never have a single argument and sacrifice everything for each other, and families who are warm, loud and loving, who make every day a celebration.
But real life isn’t necessarily about the big things; it’s about the small things that may make a small impact as they happen, but add up to a relationship that is great.
When I look back on my life and relationships, I can think of so many ‘small big things’ (forgive the misquote of Dr, Martin Luther King’s original speech) that have stayed with me:
My father clinking glasses with me as he had his evening drink and I my soda in a ‘fancy’ glass;
My mother holding my hand the night before my Grade 10 board exams, not saying anything, just being there;
My sister patiently teaching me math;
My brother reading me W.B. Yeats and introducing me to jazz with the legendary Ella Fitzgerald;
My friends cocooning me in a large, cushioned Ambassador car and taking me to the blood bank as my father lay dying in hospital; other friends checking up on me when I have not been well;
My husband bringing me my cup of tea on Sunday afternoons;
My children covering me with a blanket and tiptoeing out of the room so I could rest…
These are only a few that I could think of, but my mind is filled with thousands and thousands of such acts, words and gestures that seem insignificant, but convey so much.
As we have all been locked down, I have noticed, and tried to practice these acts of care more consciously, whether it is sharing mangoes with the housekeeping staff who left their families and toiled through the hot summer in my building, or having a weekly movie night for the staff in my house. They may not seem like much, but each gesture says “I appreciate you, I care for you. Thank you for everything.”
So instead of waiting for the grandiose gestures, let’s start focusing on the small ones, and show those around us that we care for them – through all the little acts of care.