Random Acts of Kindness – the joy of mate-ship, and who has your back?

Random acts of kindness are an inspiration. They mean that someone has our back. I read this in an article written a couple of years ago entitled Who is on your Team by Alison Winn Scotch and then the other day Thrive Global were asking for pieces to do with just this subject. I was a little slow replying to them so missed my opportunity but this is a topic I often think about.

Acts, random acts of kindness have a profound effect on the recipient and this in turn reaches out and affects others. It is a paying it forward domino effect. When we take on a new enterprise, we need support from those familiar and dear to us. It is the boost to the courage needed to seek support from outside. Outside support determines the success level of a business, any business including writing. People are busy. We all know and accept this, but support is such an easy thing to give. Whenever I feel myself thinking less generously with my time, I remember a humbling experience I had years ago while travelling in Italy which I would love to share with you. The particular act of kindness was most random, and most unexpected as it came from a complete stranger.

One of the most stunning places I’ve had the privilege of visiting is the Isle of Capri, and its famous Blue Grotto, or Grotta Azzurra, a sea cave hosting a spectacular phenomenon that only happens if fortunate allows, eighty days of the year. You need to know I am afraid of deep water. However, I took the coach to the marina along with others on my tour, and duly hopped on the ferry only to discover that to fully appreciate the grotto I needed to get into a tiny rowboat in the middle of the ocean. No. Absolutely not.

In case you are not familiar with the cavern I should explain that it has a narrow entrance that is also limited in height (dependence on tide). The procedure is simple. As one rowboat goes in another comes out. Upon reaching the entry the boatman grabs hold of a rope attached at the top of the opening, tugs downwards, and uses the rope as leverage to lower himself on top of the rowboat passengers who have been told to lie flat as the boat enters the rock.  The procedure is reversed upon leaving the cave. Once inside the boats follow one another slowly, giving visitors the time to fully appreciate the splendor unfolding.

Limited Space!!! Limited Height!!! Dark hole!!! No way!!!

My observations were made from the ferry deck. I’m Italian and we have very expressive faces. Oblivious to anything except my fear (leading to incredible panic) I failed to realise I was being closely observed by a male fellow passenger, and he was frowning, frowning heavily. We had a queue going on the ferry to board the steady stream of rowboats. I kept moving to the back of the line, hoping to eventually avoid the experience without anyone noticing.

The gentlemen disagreed, strode up to me, got in my face and told me to get in the boat. You can imagine my initial reaction to this total and obnoxious stranger.  I ignored him; he refused to ignore my ignoring.  Very nicely he told me again to get in the boat. I again, ignored him. He repeated his directions. Taken by surprise I turned into a gaping goldfish, then recovered enough to shake my head with passion (a lot of it). He repeated the instructions. I shook my head again, noting an Australian accent and a hand on his arm belonging to a female telling him to mind his own business, and four children chortling. Braver, I added a louder no. Who the hell was this man?

By now everyone on board had become aware of the situation and were laughing, and I might add, they were also on his side nodding in agreement. Apparently, there was no need to translate. His message was clear, and he had no intention of easing up on me. I was stubborn and he was determined.  Finally, totally exasperated, he said:

“Get in the f..king boat. I refuse to stand here and watch you miss an experience of a lifetime.  I can’t, and will not let that happen. So, get in that God damn f..king boat now.”

His poor wife tried hard to get him to control his language; his children laughed in delight. Though embarrassed something inside me recognised the moment as much more than the obvious, a person bent on interfering in someone else’s life. The word bully had not entered my mind despite his manner. Underneath my fears I recognised the sincerity in this man who hailed from Perth, Western Australian. I recognised the offer of mate-ship, the one nudging at the corners of my mind. That nudge overrode the yelling and swear words. His wife, his children and the passengers, including those that had already been inside the cave knew it, and so did I. This was a good man.

Small openings 1I did get in the boat, and once inside the cave I called him every name under the sun. I didn’t know I knew some of the words I used.  I was in a black hole because I had let a total stranger dictate to me. The weight of the boatman lifted; I sat up and nervously looked around. A ray of sunlight blinded, bedazzled. My eyes adjusted, the tempo of my heart slowed to enjoy the iridescent shaft hit the water, continue down to reveal the wonders of a deep dark sea, a sea whispering that magic exists, if we take the time to find it.

To this day I remember every moment of that experience, I remember every shade and hue that the sky, the cavern and water gifted me and I remember a man who was on my team, a man I would never meet again but would hold dear for the rest of my life.  A random act, and yet that moment drifts to the surface constantly and reminds me to think outside myself. Recent research shows happiness and success rises when we perform these acts. Sometimes I forget the lesson on generosity but mostly I remember and it impacts on my actions.

What about you? What do you think and do you have a story to tell? You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.

Alla prossima (till next time)


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