I participated in an online meeting recently where we were all asked a question, “What would you do for the people you love?” As I listened to responses from across the zoom (you see what I did there!), one common feature stood out in most of the answers – spending time. I was reflecting on what everyone was sharing, and at the same time, thinking about how I myself express love. I realised that in the recent past, I started putting a little bit more effort to show care towards the people I love. This was a small but significant difference in how I showed love before and how I wanted to do it now.
I wasn’t always like this. I seem to have believed for a long time that everyone took care of themselves and I didn’t have to bother about showing care. Of course, I would like to think that I was never selfish and extended help whenever I was asked for it. But it was when I lost my dad a few years back that I felt the absence of someone who brought our family together. It made me realise what a big but unrecognised impact he made by showing his care for each one of us separately, thus becoming the glue that held the family together. I then knew I had a choice to make. I couldn’t shirk the responsibility of showing care to those around me and let it rest on others.
How do I begin to care? I could be in the same room with someone, even sitting next to them, yet fiddle away on my phone, lost in my own myriad worlds. Will that count as care when the other person is desperately looking for a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on? Care includes spending time but goes beyond mere presence. Care isn’t only about giving people things either, because we could spend money on gifts without being much involved emotionally. Of course, depending on the need, care may include providing, but paying for the need may not always be sufficient to to show someone we truly care.
There may not be a manual for recognising needs, but spending quality undistracted time allows people to open up to us. Listening wholeheartedly and watching for unspoken gestures is a good place to start. People respond when we do such things with real conviction.
Care isn’t about fulfilling your duty as an obligation – because then your heart isn’t in it. You’re only going through the motions, without involving your emotions. Care often requires sacrifice, even sacrificing your own time or money. We may have to sometimes take time off from work and other commitments to give sufficient time to people around us. Care requires commitment because it often involves walking a mile with people to help them in achieving their goals, and stopping half-way is not an option.
Life keeps teaching us that wellbeing is never accidental. Relationships, families and communities are often held together by a few people who are committed and dedicated to thoughtful care and nurture. If we all start to truly show care to each other, wouldn’t the world be a better place? You could start contributing to this today by telling people around you that you care for them, and then backing this claim up with your time, resources, a listening ear and most importantly, through your actions.