The other day I was rifling through a bottom drawer in my desk when I found a small flower-printed note pad. I’d stashed it there in the hopes certain small people wouldn’t find it and realize how perfect it was for spontaneous art projects. It was pretty and pale-hued and smelled faintly of books—that old musty smell that feels like home. It had come across the country in the mail a few years before and now I felt bad for having stashed it so well that I’d forgotten about it, because it was part of a care package, the other contents of which had either been eaten or worn. It had come from a friend, someone I’ve exchanged packages with several times over the years. But the best part, at least the most recent best part, was being able to use it now, like it had just arrived, with all the same thougthfulness and gratitude attached to it.
Caring seems to be in both huge abundance and short supply these days. We’re passionately glued to the newest headlines about the current atrocities and outrages of the world but at the same time not able to do the things for ourselves that we really should. And I’m sometimes struck by the terrible ache that I’m not doing enough for others—friends, co-workers, students, family. That I should be doing more. Caring more.
I’m not sure if caring is a well or a river–that is, whether it’s finite or self-replenishing. Sometimes it feels like there’s no more caring left and I feel hollow and echo-y inside. Other times I’m overflowing with it and all I want to do is bake all the things for everyone and explode with love-beams. Okay, maybe not love-beams.
But one thing I’ve always come back to, as I oscillate between the well and the river, is something I remember doing for a long time. Caring in small packages and giving them to people. Some of my favourite things I’ve received have come in the mail, and some of my favourite purchases have been sent to others. There’s something intensely hopeful and personal about the way we select and package and address something that will journey without us, while we have faith it will arrive, and imagine its contents being carefully unwrapped.
One such parcel came last month from New Zealand, bearing delights dressed up as Christmas presents, but I knew it for what it was, despite the season: care. It’s all a little miraculous if you think about it. Someone else has you so much in their thoughts that they take the time to go through the dozen or more tiny motions to get this to you. It’s no small thing. It’s huge. It’s human. It’s care made physical.
The icing on these cupcakes was made possible by an astounding freeze-dried plum powder sent by our very own Hannah Tunnicliffe in that package. It stunned us with flavour and we had mixed feelings about eating it so fast. Thank you, Hannah.
So this year I endeavour to add more of my caring to the world in the form of packages and cards and notes digital and analogue. Phone calls. Cookie ambushes. I choose to be a river, or at least a drought-resistant stream.
What do you send in the mail to others? What other ways to do you show you care?