Little Things

April 5, 2012

I was on my way home from work, sitting regally in a tuk-tuk as it wove its way through the endlessly fascinating rush hour traffic. At one point we got stuck crossing a busy boulevard, and a knot of motorcycles formed around us.

I found myself looking directly at a girl on a moped, about three feet away, who was looking at me. We were both just blankly staring, in that distracted, mind- somewhere-else way that one does, when we both noticed we were looking, by default, closely at each other. The was a pause of about two seconds while we both evaluated the situation. Then she just smiled, a big, happy, life affirming smile, from ear to ear.

I smiled back at her, and then the traffic loosened, and we went in our respective directions. And I was thinking to myself: ‘I love this country’.

Back in England, smiling at a stranger in the street would be probable cause for a bout of fisticuffs. But here, the natural inclination is to smile, to be happy, to be welcoming, accepting, cheery.

It was only a little thing, a tiny and insignificant moment. But, it seems to me, that the little things add up. And a smile from a stranger in London can put a spring in your step. Here, where everyone smiles at you, it makes you bouncy all day long.

I’m writing this sitting in a quiet bar (called The Pub, which makes life easier for both me and Blossom: when I say I’m going to the pub, she knows where I am) where the lady behind the bar, after pouring my beer, silently offered me a huge slice of the green mango she was eating. Which was delicious. Such a small thing, again, but the little things add up. They add up to living somewhere with simpler values, where people are inclined to like one another, and to treat each other well. And I love that.

Later: A few minutes after I wrote the above, the nice lady behind the bar proudly showed Blossom and I a picture of her baby. ”How old is she?” we asked. ”I don’t know. I found her in a rubbish bin behind Wat Phnom seven months ago.”

As I said, the little things add up, to become big things. It took Blossom 10 minutes to stop crying.

This is a story I’ll probably be pursuing.


2 Responses to “Little Things”

  1. Georgie M said

    Keep em coming plse – lovely. Happy smiling – happy Easter !

  2. On the little things I thought you might like the story of Paul Zak, a neuroeconomist from South Carolina, who believes that he has isolated the morality molecule – Oxytocin, which is also known as the ‘love hormone’ for its roles in reproduction. It is a naturally occurring hormone that Zak believes helps increase trust and empathy.

    In one experiment, Zak took blood samples from unacquainted people and gave them $10 for taking part. Each participant was told that if they gave that $10 to another person in the experiment, the experimenter would treble the money for the recipient. The recipient would be informed that they had received money from another participant and could do what they wanted to with the money. Zak found that 95% of the participants who received the extra windfall returned a portion of that to the original sender. From the blood samples, Zak noted that when a participant received money from another participant, they showed increased levels of oxytocin. The higher the levels of oxytocin the more money the participant would send back.

    So how do we increase our levels of oxytocin other than waiting around for people to give us money? Paul Zak says the best way to increase both your levels and the levels in others is simply by giving them a hug. Zak, or ‘Doctor Love’ as he is also known, recommends at least 8 a day.

    I like the little things. I like that even though you are on the other side of the world I often find myself thinking about you and Susan and I smile.

    I have been on my usual pursuit of listening to a variety of stimulating podcasts that I like to combine with my passion for keeping my fingers in the earth and found myself listening to a riveting lecture by one Simon Winchester about the eccentric historian and intellectual Joseph Needham. It felt like sitting in front of an open fire gathered at the knee of a great story teller listening in awed silence. I smiled constantly as I continued to plug the gaps in the veg patch fence and thought of you.

    Sending you and Susan enormous hugs and love from Easton. I hope I see you both again soon and I look forward to hearing some more of the little things that are making you happy.

    H x

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