At the start of my summer at Syracuse University, far away from home with no family and no friends there, I found In my clothing trunk small gifts wrapped in silver paper, tucked away in my Converse sneaker, in the folds of a towel, in the hood of my oversized sweatshirt. They were small gifts from my mother, droplets of affection; an alarm clock, a pack of chewing gum, hair bands, upbeat greeting cards, hidden away. These token gifts were a connection to her. See, I miss you. See, you matter. See, don’t be lonely.
It is the small gestures to which we cling.
In a drawer in my home I have a thank you note from a teacher for a gift I sent her at the birth of a baby. The baby is four now, and I can’t let go of the card. It has the standard thank you, and the "we appreciate," and then a bonus -- two more sentences tailored to me, personalized and very touching.
I heard a story of a couple in marital turmoil. It goes something like this: The husband was going away on a business trip, and he suggested to his wife that this time he stay away a little longer. His plans were built on both their misery. She was devastated, but she understood. The night before his trip she felt the hollowness of the moment before something sacred is lost, and she tried something new. She cut out slips of paper and wrote I Remembers:
I remember the night our son was born and we were driving through the snow to the hospital and I was so scared, but I felt so safe because I was with you.
I remember when you came home early because I was sick with a cold and you brought me Chamomile tea and a donut.
I remember when we were at my sister’s wedding and you turned around to find me and gave me a wink.
It was those small slips of paper that brought him back to her. Early.
She slid a note in the book he planned to read on the plane, in the socks in his luggage, in his toiletry bag. It was those small slips of paper that brought him back to her. Early.
My husband recently brought my daughter home from preschool. She entered the house in a screaming tantrum, spewing spears through our ears, and writhing her body on the floor like a fish out of water. He waited. He picked her up to him. He held her. Her screams became rapid breath, and then she relaxed.
The next day, while driving, I thought I should tell him how well he handled it all, the behavior that makes you want to cover your ears, run into another room and close the door behind you.
No, I don’t want to call him at work, I thought. It’s not that important.
But when is it important to call?
The leak in the bathroom sink needs a plumber. Can I have his number? We got an invitation for the neighbor’s bar mitzvah. What should I RSVP?
This is the man who when we sat in a dimly lit restaurant after we ate, he slid the candle on the table over to me to add light so to help me recite the Blessing after the Meal. When my cell phone was losing battery and I was about to drive away for the day with no charger, he clipped off his phone battery and traded with me.
In reading the biographies of righteous individuals it is the accumulation of the small acts that seem to make the person grand and remembered. Like Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach who always sat in the front seat of a cab so that the driver should not feel like a servant. These types of things were not skimped on. It is the drops of rain that make up the downpour.
The strength of a marriage doesn't come from the big things – the surprise trip to Europe, the expensive diamond bracelet, being there for the major surgery.
It's about the little things. It is about answering affirmative to the does it really matter? Will it really make such a difference? Will it really make an impact on my friend? My spouse? My child? Will it make an impact on me?
I called my husband to thank him.
It is the small beans in the sack bumping into one another, making the rhythm, bringing on the music. Yes. Yes. Yes.