Let us do the best we can

No matter how bleak the circumstances are, bear in mind that you do matter. Go into the New Year resolving to do the best you can.

Published - December 24, 2017 05:00 pm IST

Illustration for Edge

Illustration for Edge

This time of year finds everyone in recollection and reverie mode! Memories of the self through hard times and good in the year gone by tend to rise on the mind screen. Relief for things one was able to manage well, regret for other things that soured either because of misunderstandings or impatience or lack of choice.

Faded snapshots

I wish to share a rich and rare experience I heard about. A few months ago, an elderly woman received a card in the mail. It had lain undetected for a while since she had long since stopped checking the contents of the faded tin mailbox fixed on her gate. While tipping out the leaves and dust, as she did from time to time, out fell a card. The postmark showed that it had been delivered three months ago. The sender’s name meant nothing at all to her. Unfolding the carefully designed piece of artwork she read a simple message “To the one who believed in me when I was six years old. Thank you.” A letter attached to it said that the sender Miss _____ had been accepted in art courses at three prestigious universities.

Imagine the joy of the elderly teacher whose memory bank was crowded with a jumble of faded snapshots of long ago. True she might not recollect the bumbling enthusiastic six-year-old whom she had supported with commitment and belief but she did remember how she herself had once been, with students, as their teacher. It made her feel bright and vigorous as she had been; she returned to her old desk and its contents — a record of her life as a teacher. It had been worth it after all: something of her would live and grow in her students.

How often do we remember to thank or acknowledge persons who shaped our lives? This is partly ingratitude and forgetfulness and partly because we think that we do not count. So many students; so many batches; my teacher will surely not recollect me! What is so distinctive about me that I should be remembered? A lingering sense of inferiority adds to our diffidence and the moment passes forever. But we do count. And that also means that everything we do can either build or despoil the collective good.

A beautiful story which appears in all world cultures is a good message on which to end the year.

A huge forest fire had driven all the animals and birds from it. As the frightened creatures stood watching from a safe place, a small bird from among them flew to a lake close by and picked up some water in its beak, flew back to the fire, opened its beak and let the drops fall into the fire. Then it flew back to the lake and picked up another beak-full. This it did tirelessly. All those watching it said discouraging things. “What do you think you are doing?” “How is this going to make a difference?” “Don’t be foolish,” and so on.

To all of which the little bird said, “I’m doing what I can.”

In this coming year, no matter how discouraging things may look, let us all do what we can.

The author is Series Editor, Living in Harmony OUP India. minioup@gmail.com

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