My mother used to keep a small blue glass bowl of change near the door of our house in New Delhi. When she went out, she would take a few coins as alms for the poor that one inevitably sees on the city's streets. Given how quickly you can become desensitized to the abundance of human misery in India, I was always impressed by her unwavering adherence to this ritual.
The bowl lay unused for several months as my mother battled cancer. When I went back to India in 2002, a year after her death, I noticed that it was one of the few items of hers that my father had saved. Little did I realize that it was going to change my life.