Small things, great love.
It’s so easy for us to fall prey to social convention, materialism and the desire for “things” that we can forget that the smallest of actions bring great love and happiness to ourselves and others.
As the years are passing by and as I get busier with more and more to do, I have been trying to remind myself to leave small tokens of affection and care for people that I love. Sometimes it isn’t a grandiose gesture that people want, but rather just a simple message that they are remembered, loved and thought of. Kind intentions, thoughtful messages and small things can carry far on beyond the present time. We do not know what people are experiencing at any given time, so the simplest of actions can bring about a lot of happiness for someone going through a lot of private issues or personal problems.
When I was much younger, I used to be so much better at this, but when life got hectic, it became hard to continue with all the hand-written notes or remembering to stay in touch with people. After the past nine months of traveling and noticing how small moments can bring such gratitude and happiness, I want to begin again with the sweet, unprecedented gestures that we used to do as children.
I was reminded of this recently when I left Saigon. My oldest Aunt lives in our family home in Vietnam with another Aunt of mine who is a dentist. She is unmarried and doesn’t have any children and now that all her nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters have immigrated to countries abroad, this huge house in the center of Saigon is now quiet, lackluster in energy and strangely empty. Three generations of the Pham family lived in that house at one point while it was still lively and jovial, but now all but one of the bedrooms has a lived-in appearance. The other rooms hold remnants and trinkets of their past owners, but dust has started to collect over much of what once was. That’s the thing about upward social mobility and globalization – support systems and families start to drift apart. We move all over and we begin new and exciting lives, but often at the cost of becoming further distant from our loved ones, our culture and everything we know. When I returned back to Vietnam and saw how many brilliant young people want to leave the country to study abroad, I was hopeful and proud of all their intelligence – but I also couldn’t help but wonder and ask myself: “At what cost?”
I write this after saying goodbye to many people in my life: family, loved ones, lovers, friends, acquaintances, teachers, mentors and everything else in between. It’s become second nature for me to experience coming and going, and saying goodbye. I am not as sad as I once was to leave places, because I know that the distance between the people I love and myself is merely an airplane ticket. Despite this, I always feel a twinge of nostalgia before I must leave wherever I’ve been calling home for a short amount of time because I’ve said goodbye enough to know that even if we were to meet again, things may not be as they once were. Life as it is and moments that we experience are the way they are because of the collision of many factors under the right bearing of time. We cannot recreate what once happened naturally.
The other day, in passing conversation, I asked a friend of mine where I could buy flowers to send to my Aunt. She had been sending me photographs daily of the roses that my Mother and I had bought in the days preceding our return to Canada. Day by day, the number of roses began to dwindle in each photograph. The Saigon heat is not meant for roses – their beauty quickly fades under the harsh humidity. Finally, there was a single white rose left in the photograph. I called my Aunt and told her to buy some more flowers for the house but she told me: “There is no one here! If I buy the flowers, who can appreciate them?” Those who have lived with me or who know me, know that I often buy flowers and plants for my room. Whether I was living in England or in the US, my room always had a few plants or a vase of flowers. Plants truly do brighten up your living space! This combined with the conversation with my Aunt sparked the idea to gift her some flowers so that her days could be brightened. Who doesn’t love to walk by a room filled with the fragrance of flowers and the color it adds to a space?
When I asked my friend where I could find a flower delivery shop, he asked me why I wanted to send flowers. When he found out, he offered to buy them and deliver a bouquet to my Aunt – which was ridiculously sweet and unexpected. The following day, my Aunt sent me five emails, each containing photographs of the roses that she had just received. She told me later on that she had received 50 ROSES! Firstly, this was not what I was expecting when my friend offered to help give flowers to my Aunt. What a surprise when I discovered that he had brought her 50 roses! That was far beyond what I was anticipating! Secondly, few words can capture the emotion you feel when you know you’ve made someone happy. My Aunt told me she was completely surprised when she heard someone ring the doorbell at lunch when it was terribly hot outside. She wasn’t expecting that it would be someone bringing her flowers!
My friend kept on insisting that this was a small matter for him to help me with, but for me – it was something entirely meaningful and although he claimed that it took minimal effort, it brought about a maximum level of appreciation and happiness for my Aunt, and by association, me. These things cannot be forgotten with time.
We have the capacity to do small things that give people great love.
People make me happy. I believe that people are good.