Loving service is the natural position of the soul.
He skipped lunch to rush home for half an hour as she was engulfed in fever waves; returned to the office, was late for the meeting of the year. Promotion went to someone else for five years in a row. He did not care. The barycenter, his wife.
The same morning a teacher put her own money in front of a yawning museum employee to buy entrance tickets for her class of twenty-one because school had run out of funds – new administration, priorities, the economic crunch, you know…- but children could not run out of excitement.
Three months earlier a man stopped on a flyover to help a gentleman with a flat tire. ‘Ultimately, I do it for God’, his only words. The rescued unable to utter a word. His wife was in the delivery room in that very moment swearing, cursing. We all have calls to answer.
In 1976, during an evening course exam, a teacher helped Mary suggesting her the right answer imperceptibly pointing the finger on the English paper. Mary was a single parent of two working at 1.73 cents per hour, less than the minimum wage of the time. The teacher knew: sometimes the swage of a finger could change someone’s life.
Somewhere, four women have just shaved their heads in solidarity with E. commencing chemotherapy next week. ‘We will get through this, together’, they raise their glass to the sound of a Polaroid. It is 5 o’ clock of an, otherwise, ordinary Wednesday.
On a journey close to the Equator, a caravan of tourists at a dinner table amidst the heat, flies and humidity, are caught by surprise when a cake materialises. ‘Happy 70th birthday’. The bell boy had picked up a passport at the reception and found out the owner was celebrating his birthday that very same day. Other birthdays followed, but that was one of his best.
On a Saturday afternoon, under pouring rain, we were just about to rush on our bus, drenched to our marrow, cold, tired. You saw a woman holding a buggy, another child in her arms, barely balancing motherhood along with two paper bags which inevitably broke. Her shopping on the pavement, more rain. She seemed about to be flown away by the wind. Or was it her own desperation.
You grabbed my hand, rushed to her, got hold of the buggy, passed it to me, picked up the shopping, fixed the child in her arms, pushed all of us inside a cafeteria.
That day never ended: when we are in town, we still meet Sheila in the same cafeteria. Her two children don’t recall anything of that day, but came to like us. Now they run around tables, mouths with stains of hot chocolate and cannot understand why rain is our extended family favourite day.
That day I understood you see what others don’t: you see where love and care are needed the most.
On March 8th, after a dinner with foreign clients and the madness of the capital’s Womens’ Day celebrations traffic, Cilia turnt the key in her office door hoping to just check the emails and eventually head home. Her mobile rang, an obnoxious anonymous call.
– Hello, Cilia
A female voice, cracked by tears
– Yes… who’s speaking?
– Why have you never told me?
– How do you know my name? Who are you?
– Why you kept it to yourself?
– Please, tell me: who are you?… and what have I kept to myself?
– My husband… you never told me
– I do not recognise your voice: who are you? It is midnight, I still have to drive 40 km home, who are you and who is your husband…
– You… and my husband
– Look, I have no idea who you are but I can assure you I do not have a story with your husband.
– No, it is not you. It is another woman
– I do not know of anyone, committed, who is being unfaithful.
The telephone call dragged with the same sentences on loop, hiccups, silences and tears. And Cilia repeating the same concept. A lie: she knew far too many people having an affair in those days. Like a disease.
Cilia never found out who kept her on the phone, that night. She had an idea but lied, for the sake of a woman destroyed at 1 am. She remembered Hemingway’s words: “I know the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started.”
Things that matter are carried out every day, on fly overs, bus stops, living rooms, middle of nowhere and offices. Corridors and subways, churches and shops are places of interaction, where a hand, a word, an imperceptible smile can turn the day around. They rarely bear any monetary cost, their emotional, psychological value, limitless.
A word, making choices where to be in a moment and how to act, matter.
If our soul position is to love and care, we might just allow it to be.