Stories > Small Gestures

2013 • Issue 1

Small Gestures

Christopher James learns the value of sincere appreciation.

“I’ve been fortunate to live a life of privilege, but it wasn’t till 1998, when I started volunteering at a hospital in Kolkata on an annual basis that I began to get a deeper perspective on life. Until then, I presumed my life in a First World environment was the way it should be.

I served as a volunteer for two weeks at the hospital where we cleaned patients, prepared food and washed the facilities. Poverty is something we saw on a daily basis. But we also saw the sheer delight that a little kindness can bring. I recall at a children’s Christmas party in Singapore, we were giving gifts to all the children. One of the boys got a box of chocolates. He looked at it and gave it back, saying he didn’t like it. This contrasted sharply with the reaction in Kolkata. In Kolkata, there is an annual Christmas party when  volunteers bring all sorts of gifts to be given away to the poor. Many are food items, and there are clothes, slippers, shoes, and other basic necessities to help the needy along. There was a young boy in his early teens who was given a Barbie doll. I thought he would exchange it, but the boy held on to it like it was a treasure and shamelessly showed it off to everyone.

I realised it wasn’t so much the doll itself, but the very act of getting a gift that moved the teenager, who had probably not received anything like a doll before. How often do we dismiss the gifts that people give because they are commonplace or ordinary? I realised then that every gift or kind gesture should be appreciated with sincerity. This appreciation of small gestures has guided me in how I conduct myself in business and when interacting with others.”

– Christopher James, Businessman / entrepreneur

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