On nights when my icecream sugar rush plummeted to a crash and the living room TV started to sound like a lullaby, one of my parents would find me curled up on the couch, fast asleep. Mom or Dad would scoop me up with arms that were strong enough to hold me up yet so gentle that I wouldn't stir; I would only sink further into their embrace as they carried me off to bed. Maybe there was a little moment of consciousness during the trip from the couch to my bed, though I never remembered the following morning. Maybe when the stairs creaked under our combined weight, my sleepy eyes would flutter open to look up and see my mom or dad. But just as fast as I opened them, the radiating warmth of my mother’s chest or the loud and steady beat of my father’s heart would have my eyelids heavy again as they pulled my bed covers up to my chin and kissed me on the forehead. My dreams were always pleasant on nights like this. I would wake up in the morning, well-rested but disoriented, wondering how I made it from the couch to my bed. It was a magical feeling; in my imagination, I pictured myself floating up the stairs and into my room, or sleep walking up there like a zombie.
Now, when I think back on that surprise of waking up in my bed after having falling asleep on the couch, I think about what it means to care for someone. It's such a small moment, such a seemingly thoughtless gesture: carrying a loved one to safety. It seems like common sense when you look at it from a glance. But it's the act of doing something for someone when they aren't even conscious. Guiding someone to safety, when they themselves can’t get to safety on their own. They say your character is built when no one is looking, same goes for committing an act of kindness for someone who you know won’t acknowledge your doing. So why do it then, if there isn’t any reward or recognition? For these people, the reward is the liberation of worry they experience knowing that someone they care about is safe and sound. There is care in carrying.
First, caring is a dad taking his daughter up to bed after a long day of fun left her snoozing on the sofa. Next, it's the girl who’s had too much to drink, the one passed out in the corner of the party. It’s the boy who waits for everyone to clear out and pushes the hair back from behind her ear, carries her up to room, and leaves a glass of water on her bed side table before heading home. Not the douchebag jock she was talking to all night, the one who gave her the booze in the first place in the hopes of getting laid. No, its the boy who knows his gesture will go unnoticed, the one who doesn’t mind that the girl won’t remember his kindness in the morning. Caring is a son who helps his single mother up to bed after she falls asleep at her desk with her hands still on the keyboard. Another stressful week at work, he knows how exhausting it is for her to make ends meet. Caring is an elderly man who, even with his bad hip, insists on carrying his wife upstairs every night so her arthritis won’t act up.
One day, you might not be a kid anymore and you might not have a person to do your carrying for you. You might fall asleep on the couch, and wake up in the same place. It’s a hard reality to wake up to. It might feel like the magic doesn’t exist anymore. In the end, you have to care for yourself. You have to bear that weight and climb those stairs yourself if no one is there to lessen the load. There is care in carrying. Where there is care, there is love, there is respect, and there is dependence. Whether someone is doing your carrying for you or you’re out there on your own, get yourself off that couch and give yourself the comfort and respect you deserve.