A card arrived Monday night with a colourful child’s drawing on the front. It said “Philippines” in the black marker scrawl of a 6-year-old called Pascal. There was an octopus with eight rainbow-coloured tentacles and other sea creatures like a stingray and a smiling starfish.
Pascal comes from Fredonia, New York, where I went to university. Along with his mother who is a creative writing faculty at SUNY Fredonia, another English department member and her daughter, he worked on a project to raise money for survivors of the typhoon that devastated the Philippines last year. The cards were made by the kids as thank you notes to those who donated. This one was selected by McV who sent it to me in London with a lovely message inside.
She could have just written an email, but she took the time to choose a card, pen a handwritten message, look up my address, take it to the post office and buy some stamps. How wonderful to receive nice mail.
And another piece of mail came the same afternoon: The second instalment of my year-long birthday present from Danny and Lucy. Knowing full well of my obsession with magazines, they tracked down an independent magazine subscription service – Stack – who are now sending me one or two magazines at random each month.
This month’s – VNA – is just my thing. It’s all about street art, graffiti, illustration and art culture with one of Swoon’s street art images on the front.
They could have gone out and bought me a present just for the sake of it, but they’re the thoughtful types by nature, the sort of people who thrive on the little things that this blog is all about.
I was thinking about thoughtfulness on my walk home the other night, that it’s really noticeable when it happens, when someone put not the extra money into something, but the extra time and effort.
Time in 2014 seems to roll along gathering value the way tumbleweed gathers dust. It’s become something very guarded; so much so that in many cases, people would much rather invest money than time.
It’s easy, for example, to pick up a decent £10 bottle of wine on the way to a friend’s place for dinner – a hostess gift that is always appreciated. Thoughtful? Of course. But then there’s people like Lucy who take that to a whole different level.
Over Christmas, Diana (one of my favourite bloggers) posted 15 takes on homemade Christmas hostess gifts and more recently about some beautifully wrapped flowers she put together for a friend. I thought it was just such a great emphasis on the fact that something doesn’t have to cost any money (or very little) to be the most amazing gift; it just has to be thoughtful – an investment of a bit of time and effort, which is often more difficult than simply spending money.
And so I was chuffed when Lucy walk into the flat and handed me a canister of homemade rock buns, with a ribbon tied around the top and a tag that read, “Rock Buns: Traditional, British and Perfect for Teatime.”
And so they were. Yesterday morning, I smothered one in cream and enjoyed it with a warm cup of earl grey and my new VNA magazine. Blissful start to a Tuesday morning.
It’s easy to come up with another handful of thoughtful moments from the past few weeks:
- Among other things, my mom brought with her on her recent trip to London a few of my American favourites – goldfish crackers, Platter’s chocolate hearts and a stack of five magazines for me to devour.
- She also brought a gift from my grandma that was very thoughtful. My grandpa (who is no longer alive) used to buy me boxes of chocolate covered cherries. With that tradition in mind, she sent a chocolate-covered strawberry scented candle that smells just like the chocolate covered cherries.
- A few days ago, Jorge bought me a few wooden spoons as a surprise after I mentioned a while ago that I’d love to have one for baking.
- Jorge took me out to dinner on the weekend to celebrate our two-year anniversary at the same place where we had our second date together. We hadn’t been back since, so it was a meaningful choice.
- On her recent visit to London, Jorge’s mom brought us both hand-knitted neck-warmers.
I have the card in front of me with the sea creatures drawn by a 6-year-old. It will be a reminders to appreciate the little acts of thoughtfulness in life.
It’s funny that the card has a child’s drawing on it because it’s often kids who are the most thoughtful while the rest of us get so wrapped up in the flurry of daily life that sometimes just the thought of taking time and effort to bake rock buns for your hosts and making pretty packaging to put them in is exhausting in itself.
When’s the last time you did something truly thoughtful for someone? Or someone else did something truly thoughtful for you?
Kristin SadlerFebruary 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm
This is very inspiring to me. I truly agree that the “little things” can make someones day. There are not enough smiles in this world, so I say ” pay it forward” and do something thoughtful anytime you can. It has a reverse effect as well, meaning it makes you feel good to do it.
littleobservationistFebruary 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm
Adrienne McCormickFebruary 12, 2014 at 4:24 pm
Hi Steph! What a beautiful post. I love the connections between the card, magazine, and gift. Little Pascal is a Fredonia native. His mother is a poet and English Department faculty member. She and another English Department mom (and also a Fredonia English alum!) and their kids–Pascal and Ellie–did a fundme project to raise money for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Phillippines in 2013. The kids made cards which were mailed to those who donated funds. Great project! Wonderful connections!
littleobservationistFebruary 12, 2014 at 4:41 pm
Oh wow, thanks for that insight! Very interesting.
McVFebruary 12, 2014 at 5:15 pm
Steph, thanks for prominently featuring Pascal Parsons’s card in your blog post on thoughtfulness! He’s the son of two of our creative writing faculty (Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Dustin Parsons)…. Aimee’s mom lives in the Philippines and the cards were drawn by Pascal and another faculty member’s daughter, to serve as thank-yous for a fundraiser they co-sponsored for Philippine relief efforts on our campus. (there wasn’t space in the card to give you all that context!) So it’s a multi-generational faculty/child/student set of links that’s going on here… and you got the card as a thank-you for the beautiful gifts from your art exhibition! More thoughtfulness 🙂 love, mcv
littleobservationistFebruary 12, 2014 at 5:46 pm
My pleasure! Thanks for the lovely card and explaining the story behind it as well. I remember Aimee – and how to pronounce her last night which we learned goes along with the syllables of “hakuna matata”. 🙂