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Caring: The Greatest Thing

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“By accident of fortune
A man may rule the world for a time.
But by virtue of love and kindness,
He may rule the world forever.”
-
Lao-Tse, Chinese philosopher and Taoist
Caring is devotion. Caring is friendship. Caring is genuineness. Caring is loving and kind. Caring is sympathy and empathy. Caring is tender, warm. Caring is complexly simple and simply complex. While “caring” encompasses a wide variety of things, and can take on many different forms, there is one aspect of it that, no matter what configuration it has assumed, is invariable: it is always there, present in all that surrounds us and everything we do. Caring is the axis around which each of our individual worlds revolve. It is the first step toward and motivating factor behind our actions, it drives us to achieve the greatest feats, and it serves as the basis for all of our positive interactions and relations with others. Friedrich Von Hugel’s last words were not uttered in vain, but rather spoken in absolute truth. Caring is the most important thing.
Why do we do the things we do? This question appears to have the potential to elicit more than one answer. However, at the most basic and definite level, it can be resolved in two words: we care. Whether it is direct or indirect, emotional investment is what compels us to make certain choices and take certain actions. All that we do correlates in some way to our level of interest in that particular thing or decision. An everyday example, students allotting large amounts of time and effort to their schoolwork aren’t usually doing so because it’s particularly enjoyable - they do it because they are fueled by their desires to be successful in school now as well as in the future, because they care. This is also demonstrated by American troops, who risk their lives on the battlefield, sacrifice time with their families, and give up the comforts of everyday living because they either care about protecting their country, following suit in a family tradition, or having a productive and meaningful life characterized by regiment, discipline, and honor. In everything we do caring is our impetus, pushing and influencing us to make certain choices and actions.
Compassion doesn’t just prompt us to take certain actions, caring propels us to reach greater heights than even we can imagine. It is said that we are capable of accomplishing things that even we don’t believe we can, and when we care, that is undoubtedly the case. When people are devoted to attaining something, they are willing to provide maximum effort and give all they have in order to achieve it. The actions of Japanese Americans of the 20th century exhibit this. Having been unjustly forced out of their homes, isolated in brutal internment camps, and unfairly discriminated against after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, these citizens were seeking redress for their own government’s wrongful actions. Many hindrances such as strong opposition and political inexperience stood between the Japanese Americans and their goal. However, they persevered and received restitution (though nothing will entirely rectify their treatment) in the form of an apology and compensation from the government. How was this group able to overcome all of the impediments blocking the path success and achieve it in full? It was because they were driven by a deep-seated insistence on receiving what they deserved. Most of all, it was because they truly cared.

Some say that simply caring is not the most important thing, but rather that doing is of the utmost significance. While it is true that caring alone will not get things done, and that action is necessary to do so, is it not also true that people tend to take action upon what they passionately care about? When people care about something (directly or indirectly), even remotely, they will take the appropriate actions or make the relevant decisions. Likewise, when people do not have concern for something or any of its aspects, then they won’t find it necessary to take any action. In this sense, “doing” cannot arise if caring has not done so first, and therefore, caring is necessary for all actions to occur and is at the heart of all of them.
Perhaps the most significant component of caring is the role it plays in our interactions with others. From families to communities to societies, caring is, in essence, the glue that holds our world’s web of people together. Demonstrating empathy, love, kindness, fondness, warmth, etc. toward one another enables us to forge bonds and sustain them. Furthermore, it allows us to understand each other. In encounters with friends, family, peers, colleagues, acquaintances, and others in our lives, care is a social adhesive; adequate amounts of it tend to keep us together while a lack of it causes us to drift apart. The care we harbor for others (and that which we hope will be reciprocated back to us) is one of the only things we surely have. In a world where our purpose and what exactly we are supposed to be doing with our lives is about as clarion as a monsooning sky, one of the only things in which we can find comfort and meaning is care.
Caring is an ever-present shape shifter, swiftly morphing from one form to the next and guiding all we do. Caring is what drives our actions, pushes us to accomplish greater things, and is the foundation for our social interactions. When Friedrich Von Hugel – on his deathbed – articulated, “Caring is the greatest thing, caring matters most,” he could not have chosen more perfect words, for what do we really even have, without care?



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