Friday, July 23, 2010

The Little Things

Sometimes, the little things that people do have a huge impact on the lives of people around them.

My father-in-law and mother-in-law had been planning a return trip to the Maritimes to re-visit all of the places my mother-in-law liked best from last year's trip before the cancer robs them of the time for special memories. High on that list was a visit to Rita McNeil's tea room. (For those of you who don't know, Rita McNeil is a Canadian singer who is often ridiculed because she is a large woman.) They had scheduled their trip to coincide with Ms. McNeil's presence at the tea room. The whole trip had to be cancelled at the last minute, because my mother-in-law is simply not well enough to make the trip. My mother-in-law was disappointed to miss the tea room again and knows there won't be another chance. (It wasn't open when they were there last year).

My husband's cousin is a dog breeder, and my in-laws own three of her champion line Boston Terriers. They take turns dog sitting, although when the dogs come to Camp MacColl, I think they get the better end of the deal. One of Judy's dogs has been in residence with my in-laws, and Judy came to pick him up yesterday. She came bearing a very large, festive basket...from Rita McNeil's tea room. She had phoned down and explained about my mother-in-law's health, and her disappointment at missing her chance to visit the tea room. Ms. McNeil's son took the phone call, and arranged the basket, which included 2 kinds of tea, some of the oat cakes that the tea room is famous for, and a bone china cup and saucer.

Nestled in the middle of the basket, though, was the best present that my mother-in-law could ever receive. You see, Ms. McNeil raised a good boy, and he took the time to ask Rita McNeil to put a little note in the basket for my mother-in-law, and Ms. McNeil did.  It was a personal note, hand written and clearly not a form letter. It was short and cheery, and has sent my mother-in-law over the moon with delight. She plans to have it framed.

It probably took 10 minutes of Ms. McNeil's time to jot the note and pop it in the basket. That 10 minutes of time will provide hours and hours of joy for my mother-in-law at a time when joy will be at a premium as her health deteriorates. I don't think I've ever heard my mother-in-law so bubbly and delighted as she was with that small note.

People in the public eye are constantly under a microscope. Their appearance, their weight and their every action is scrutinized, criticized, ridiculed and held up for inspection. The price of fame is a loss of privacy. I worked for many years in Customs at Pearson Airport, and with exceptions I could count on 1 hand, the famous people I encountered were genuine, considerate of their fans, polite and patient. Sure they all had off days, and who isn't grumpy after a delayed flight or a lost suitcase? Time and again, I would see them stand for long periods of time signing autographs, posing for pictures and treating their fans with respect and courtesy, which often wasn't returned. They didn't expect special treatment, and it was often the people around them who were rude to the fans.

Joke if you must about Rita McNeil. Her small act of kindness made the life of a terminal cancer patient bright, light and happy. The little things really do make a difference.


Atlantic Writer said...

I'm learning that gratitude for the little things is the key to staying sane in the midst of life's crap. I'm glad she had that moment of happiness and hope the memory of it will sustain you all.

Christine Peets said...

I have visited Rita McNeil's Tea Room, and it is as genuine as I think she is. I always thought the jokes about her weight, folksiness, etc. were cruel and unjustified. She wasn't there when I was there, but her staff was warm and courteous. She's not only raised a good son; she's trained good staff. They are excellent representatives.
How nice that this small gesture from the Tea Room made such a beautiful difference in your mother-in-law's life. I hope you will let them know how much it all meant.
Thanks for sharing this, and reminding us that it is indeed the little things that can make a big difference.