Overwhelmed after a long day of catching up with routine activities, I lay next to Hari for a super abbreviated version of his bed time ritual. “No reading kannamma today”, I muttered with a trace of apology. “How about some cricket”, he asked with hope lingering in his eyes. “Illa ma rajathi, amma has work to do and it is already past your bed time”, with this closing statement I fast forwarded to the fag end of our routine. Recited our routine slokam and asked him, “How was your day? what made you happy? what made you sad?”. He talked a bit about soccer, recess, and snacks, and shot the questions back at me. Little did he realise that the questions would unleash a pity party. “I had a hectic day Hari. First, it was shoveling the snow, then getting reading for the day. It was busy at work. Then had to pick Ram, drop him at home and then pick you from swim class. Then I had to make dinner. I have a terrible terrible tooth ache and head ache. I wish I could sleep now. But I have to work for atleast another hour.”
It didn’t matter that he was only a first grader. All I wanted was a willing shoulder to lean on. And yesterday it happened to be his tiny shoulders. He listened patiently, and asked, “Do you want me to help you with the cleaning?” Somehow that casual offer seemed like the perfect soothing balm for my tired soul. I came downstairs to tackle my sink full of dishes and a house littered with toys with renewed energy knowing that I was heard and someone cared.
Sometimes the difference between empathy and indifference is only a few words, isn’t it?