A small thing, hardly worth mentioning.
The title of this blog is "By Little and By Little." It comes from something Dorothy Day (my hero!) often repeated: "It is by little and by little that we are saved." I believe this with all my heart. What is life, after all, but a series of individual moments? In each one of them, we are making choices, developing habits, creating our lives. It is the tiny everyday things which we do over and over which define us.
When we started Karuna Vihar, one of my first resources was a simple, down-to-earth book called "Teaching Children with Mental Handicaps". It was written by a woman who had worked in Pakistan for many years and it was a warm, loving collection of commonsense and experience. I have never forgotten her advice to "always hold a child by the hand, not the wrist, and walk with her as you would with a friend."
Try it both ways and see what different messages your body sends you: you clutch a wrist or you hold a hand. As my friend Rachel puts it, there is nothing quite like the feel of a little paw in yours. It evokes tenderness and regard and reminds us that there is a real person attached to it, however small, and that that person has thoughts and ideas and places to go, too. She's not just an appendage to be dragged wherever we are heading, someone we can commandeer simply because we are bigger than she is.
So we made holding hands, not wrists, a policy at Karuna Vihar. Old staff do it automatically, and remind newcomers until it becomes second nature to them, too. Soon it becomes so ingrained it just feels strange and awkward to do it any other way, like wearing your shoes on the wrong feet. And I notice that the children now do it too, taking their cues in this, as in so many things, from the grownups.
I think of this as one of our keystone policies - a simple rule that says it all, a rule that illustrates the principles we hold dear and which we can use to guide all our other actions: Be kind. Be fair. Remember the child. Go at his pace. By little and by little, we'll get there.