Daring to care and The Art of Possibility

Posted: 6 March, 2013 in inspiration
Tags: , , , , ,
The ultimate act of kindness can come when you least expect it, but when you need it most.

The ultimate act of kindness can come when you least expect it, but when you need it most.

The daily mantra of many people today is, “I don’t care.” I can’t think of much worse than going through life with such indifference.

While it can be discouraging to hear this constant confession from people I talk to each day, I take a certain pride in caring about what I do. No matter how menial the task, I like walking away knowing that I gave it my all. It may not be noticed by everybody, or anybody, but it matters to me to pay attention to even the little things.

I think what makes people give up and stop caring is the feeling of powerless they have, that what they do, no matter how much effort goes into it, will not make a difference. This was beautifully explained by author, conductor and teacher Benjamin Zander in his book, The Art of Possibility.

“A string player just entering a new position in an orchestra will often start off with great enthusiasm, take his part home at night, and continue to do careful and regular practice in his spare time.

However, when it begins to dawn on him that his stand partner stopped practicing years ago and that the conductor does not seem to care or even to hear when players are out of tune, he too quickly begins to show signs of the disease.”

The disease Zander talks about is the despondence that comes when “players … perceive their role in the group to be of little significance.” He calls this “second fiddle-itis” and sees it as a major reason for discouragement and apathy among the groups he speaks to.

It is hard to give a damn sometimes, especially when you feel like you’re “playing second fiddle”. And it’s easy to forget just how much the little things we do matter.

The ultimate example of this is also related in Zander’s book and shows what it is to truly care about someone:

Inscribed on five of the six pillars in the Holocaust Memorial at Quincy Market in Boston are stories that speak of the cruelty and suffering in the camps.

The sixth pillar presents a tale of a different sort, about a little girl named Ilse, a childhood friend of Gerda Weissmann Klein, in Aushwitz. Gerda remembers that Ilse, who was about 6 years old at the time, found one morning a single raspberry somewhere in the camp.

Ilse carried it all day long in a protected place in her pocket, and in the evening, her eyes shining with happiness, she presented it to her friend Gerda on a leaf.

“Imagine a world,” writes Gerda, “in which your entire possession is one raspberry, and you give it to your friend.”

To care, to truly care, about something is a wonderful thing. I think of this story about 6-year-old Ilse often, especially when I’m feeling discouraged. It reminds me of the importance of caring, and the value of a thoughtful act or word of encouragement to a sad soul.

Keeping Ilse’s example in mind will make sure I never forget this important lesson.

  1. stephenreno says:

    Now that is above and beyond…

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