When Bailey was just a little lad, fresh out of nappies and wearing tiny jocks, we had a moment. It happened one ordinary day, when he was all of two. We were outside; he was pottering around the garden and I was hanging out the washing, the kind of mundane activity, that’s easily forgotten.
Suddenly, he stopped.
‘Oh Mum!’ he exclaimed, looking at me as if I was the most amazing human to ever grace the face of the planet. ‘You washed my jocks!’ The joy in his voice was priceless; gratitude flowed out of every part of his very tiny self.
‘Yeah mate,’ I said, somewhat taken aback. ‘I always wash your jocks.’
‘Oh, thank you, mum! Thank you for washing my jocks!’
He then went on with whatever it is little boys do when playing in the garden, and I stood there, equal parts surprised and proud. How wonderful to have a two-year-old of the male persuasion, rejoice in clean underwear!
I filed that story away in my ‘to-remember’ box for several reasons:
- The cuteness.
- Future embarrassment opportunities. And,
- Possible character information.
The last point sounds like I was planning on writing a story about him, (and let’s not be too hasty to shelve that idea), but quite honestly, I try to do this most people I know.
Now it’s not about knowing or caring about people’s preferences for clean underwear (please don’t tell me about your underwear), but rather about knowing what makes people happy. Or to be more concise, what things I can do for people to make them feel valued. (In this case, I learnt that my small boy loves people doing things for him. Not much has changed since then. 🙂 )
For instance, when one of my friends shared a post on Facebook recently about friends ‘showing up,’ I took note. She’s not a person who shares things all willy-nilly, so if she shared it, it means it resonated with her. I read it and took it on board. Being present is something of great importance to her.
I messaged another friend recently just to see how she was going. She was so thankful I had asked. Like really, really happy I had thought of her and said hi. I was kind of surprised. In a world where messaging in so many ways happens almost constantly, you forget just how much it can mean to someone. For some people, it’s simply the best way to show you care.
I’ve got another friend who just loves encouragement. You know how I know? When I say something nice to her, she smiles and hugs me.
She also loves hugs. 🙂
I don’t just make note of the things I’ve done that have been received well; I watch what other people do. When I notice that someone always brings homemade treats when they come over, I file that away to reciprocate for visits to their house. (If they always bring Tim Tams, I take note of that too.) I notice those who always want to ‘do’ things for other people, and try to help out when they need something done for them. Someone I know is always praising other people. It’s not a stretch to deduce that positive words really mean a lot to him, and it’s not a stretch to hand them out.
And it’s not just people I know, that I file information away on. It’s people I see all the time. I know that some of the checkout ladies at Coles are much more particular about how the conveyor belt is ordered; I try to take note of which ones. Some like a chat, others really don’t, but will appreciate you saying thank you at the end of your exchange anyway. It’s not hard to work out how to make others feel appreciated; it just takes a little bit of notice.
Now obviously I am a human person who is prone to mood fluctuations, crazy hormones (pass the chocolate and no one gets hurt), and general apathetic moments. I don’t get things right all the time or even most of the time, and sometimes my filed-away knowledge gets confused, mixed up, or it’s just totally wrong.
But any attempt to make someone feel valued is a good attempt. Any attempt to make someone feel loved is good.
So why am I talking about this today?
Because Paris happened. And Beirut before that, and Baghdad, and probably a whole bunch of other places that we will never know about.
Because terrorism is a shocking reality that may be around for some time yet.
Because racism and intolerance and hatred can not be cured by fighting.
Because Martin Luther King Jr had it right when he said:
Because it’s only been three weeks since I said my own goodbye, and that absence is felt most sharply in my inability to show my love.
We can’t change what happened on the weekend or any time before that. But we can possibly change what is yet to happen. By watching people, by taking notice, by filing away the things that are important to them, so that we can use them to love them better.
Love is as simple as noticing the people around us, and washing little boys jocks, and it always makes a difference.