Stranger in a Strange land.
Week 10- This week’s challenge was to go out of our way to help a stranger/s.
This has become one of my favourite parts of the week. When I buy my skinny cappuccino and put pen to paper to collate my thoughts on this week’s experiment. Its snowy out today and I’ve got a new pen , the type I love, which makes your writing look better than it actually is. It was left in my office, a random act of kindness by someone else from which I am benefitting!
This experiment proved to be difficult to execute once again. Moments of meeting strangers are quite few and far between. As I sit here I rummage through the archives of my brain to recall relevant experiences. I think about how I have sometimes been accused of being too smiley. I think it was a nervous trait of my youth, I remember a colleague telling me I was way too smiley and it was weird. His words hurt my feelings and I made an effort to tone it down a bit but it was my naturally go to setting. I think now I am older perhaps that’s not so true anymore after being battered and bruised, as we all are, through life’s experiences. But have you ever tried it? Just smiling at someone it can be infectious!
I want to tell you about the time I was alone on a train to London and this young Asian guy came over to me and asked if you could sit down across the table to me. He was extremely chatty and ended up buying me a coffee, it was such an unusual experience ( I was old enough to be his Mum) – I wanted to enjoy the experience for what it was- just a friendly encounter but this warning voice in my head was telling me to be cautious, he must want something. He did not, after two hours he got to his stop said it was great to meet me and left. He was just a genuinely lovely person and I feel ashamed to this day of my dubious thoughts. I feel we are conditioned somehow to think this way, so much so, it gets in the way of enjoying encounters for what they truly are.
I want to tell you about the time I was on my way to a yoga class and as I walked through the gym to get to class this man who was working out literally collapsed into my arms, his face ashen. I held him until the ambulance came. I don’t know to this day what happened to him but I hope I offered him some comfort.
I want to tell you about the time I was driving to work. I noticed an elderly lady had parked very strangely on a verge in the middle of nowhere. I decided almost without thinking that something was amiss and turned the car round to check on her. Unfortunately it was too late and as I opened the door I heard her exhale her last breath. She must have felt unwell and had the presence of mind to pull over. I flagged down a passing bus to help and we all waited for an ambulance. All I could think was- if it was my Mam I would want somebody to try and help her.
I want to tell you about the time I sat in a café and noticed a little girl of about two- walking on her own towards a busy road, something didn’t feel quite right and I risked being accused of kidnapping or feeling foolish to run out and pick her up. I waited with her in my arms and looked around a few short minutes later her Mum came running around the corner and the relief in her eyes will stay with me forever. She’d left a door open for just a few seconds and her little girl had decided to go for a wander.
On a lighter note, I once overheard a conversation in a nearby shop where a couple was enquiring about getting a bag of logs for their cottage that they had rented for the weekend. The romantic in me took over and I immediately offered them a bag of my own logs. They followed me home to collect them and the next day there was a bottle of wine on my front door step by way of thanks.
These things have happened over a number of years and I am not trying to make out that I am some kind of angel of goodness – I am absolutely not and can be equally bad and grumpy but these things stay with you, I think because of how they make you feel- the afterglow. Take the risk to reach out and it will be you who benefits.
So, back to this week.
I helped a lady in the village that I did not previously know. She approached me as I was putting out my recycling to look for her missing cat and I reassured her more than I normally would because she looked so pale and worried. And my boyfriend started a conversation with a young Polish couple who have moved into rented accommodation across the road- they have come here to work in a nearby restaurant and said they don’t have any curtains and that they didn’t have much at all really. This weekend he has arranged for them to come over and have a look at some bits and bobs we no longer need just because we can. So I am claiming that one too- but honestly that man, despite his tough exterior he has a heart of gold!
Why be mean when you can be kind? The years have taught us through experience to be suspicious of strangers but in this time of reawakening lets collectively try and reverse the trend one day at a time.