I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression death by a thousand cuts. It’s a way to convey the persistent, unrelenting pressure that ultimately break us down, bearing down on us from all sorts of angles and in all sorts of forms. A caustic comment slices here, an unkind laugh pierces there and soon, the culmination of these tiny, mean fissures leads to a degrading erosion of the spirit, a petering out of the soul, drip by drip till nothing is left.
Have you heard of the opposite? I am not aware of anything that captures the opposite phenomenon, though it seems apt to have one. It’s certainly in order to have an uplifting, reinforcing counter-version, like life from a thousand strokes.
Life from a thousand strokes. The wellspring of life is love, and love comes alive when expressed in its multifarious forms. Contrary to the prevailing narrative that popular culture feeds us, love is not about monumental, grand gestures.
Rather, love is the countless acts that look small and insignificant and yet, unbeknownst to us, these mini pockets are the true carriers of its essence. In their ordinariness lies their power. It is the everyday actions that we do innumerable times every day that convey our love for others.
What do these acts look like? Well, here’s a few that I like:
When a friend calls up after several days have passed, simply to hear your voice and check that you’re doing okay.
When a loved one makes a separate version of a curry because you like it with a slightly sweeter tinge while the rest of the family doesn’t.
When you send someone a classic comic strip that you know will make them laugh, for no reason other than that you want them to have a good laugh in their day.
The acts are tiny; in and of themselves, they don’t feel meaningful or significant. This is why, perhaps, we tend to overlook them and not do them. It won’t matter, we say to ourselves. They won’t notice if I don’t do it, we rationalize. It’s possible they will go unnoticed. And yet, it’s also likely they will be noticed.
Not just noticed, they will likely make an impact on the heart, a beneficent caress. To feel thought of, to be the recipient of an act for whom we are the sole target, these are powerful gestures that heal. They bathe us in empathy, bonding, and care. They are like salubrious balms when we are having a bad day or even a bad phase. They are soul-enhancing nudges that flush us with confidence and infuse our step with spring and bounce.
If you’re doing them, showing kindness and love through the means available to you, you should know these acts matter. They have an echoing effect, long after you have made the gesture because the recipient thinks back on them, over and over, with gratefulness, satisfaction and happiness. I don’t know the number of times a heartfelt “how are you?” made my day better just from feeling cared for at that moment.
Life flows from a sense of well-being. Each of us has the capacity to enhance others’ well-being through our little, thoughtful gestures if only we recognize their real power and care to do them. Making someone’s life better, through a thousand gentle strokes is much more preferable to giving them death by a thousand tiny cuts. The choice is ours to make.