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

cat and butterfly

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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.

blue grotto

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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)

Barb

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Can you be on my team?

paris-2Laughing without limits is a very entertaining blog I follow covering a wide variety of topics about real life. This is an extract  from the latest post:

 “My husband and I were in Paris, and it was freezing out.  We were waiting for our train, and another had just arrived.  I saw an older man get on the train, clearly homeless.  He had a bag with his belongings.  And he had another plastic bag wrapped around his neck, in the place of a scarf….”

(the somethings October 10, 2016)

Seeing the plastic around his neck she wanted to give him her scarf. It is a natural reaction. Instead, fear of offending or making a scene, ruled the day. It didn’t help to be in a foreign country and subject to a language barrier.   In different ways and in different places we have all been in this situation. Think about it. I know I have. So I have to ask the question –  what kind of world do we live in when we are confused about what should be a simple act of kindness?  Yet, we worry that same act of kindness may be misconstrued, unwanted, or unnecessary.  We worry about how our actions may be perceived.

As teachers, placing a hand on a child’s shoulder to reassure them, to make them feel valued is frowned on. But, we all need acknowledgement.  I know I do.  I need someone to notice when I’m struggling.  I need people on my team.  I live for the moments when I am witness to those random acts of kindness that show, teams exist.  I live for the moments when I feel the fear of offending, or embarrassing, misreading what is happening, and whatever else crosses our mind, and I still take a chance and act.  Somewhere, sometime, someone will need a scarf to replace the plastic around their neck.  I don’t want to be afraid to give it or receive it.

I love that blogging allows me to discuss these things. In fact I did a post entitled Who has your back? on this subject, some time ago on my old blog.  I am not ashamed to tell you I am about to use a section of it below.  It ties in so well with supporting others. The reality is that whatever your need, support is invaluable, and these days too many people are quite stingy with their support. I know in most cases, it is simply fear of how they will be perceived, by others.  It makes sense to be afraid of your reception but it is so much better for everyone when we feel the fear and don’t let it hold us back.

 DIGITAL CAMERAThe Blue Grotto or Grotta Azzurra is on the Isle of Capri.  It is a sea cave hosting a phenomenon that only happens 80 days of the year, tidal conditions permitting.  Oceans (deep water) and I (nearly drowned victim) have a real affinity as long as I stay on land or a boat to appreciate the panorama.  When I discovered seeing the cave meant I had to get into a tiny rowboat I was beside myself.

The cave or cavern has a narrow entrance. One rowboat goes in as one comes out.  Simple? No! Firstly you had to get in the rowboat. Then you had to lie down and the boatman apparently had to grab hold of a rope at the entrance, which he then had to pull on.  This allowed leverage to lower himself on top of the rowboat passengers and thus enter the cavern. Watching this from the deck of the ferry I quickly lost my enthusiasm .  Limited Space!!! Limited Height!!! Dark hole!!!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOblivious to anything except my own personal drama I failed to realise I was being closely observed. I had progressively moved to the back of the line to avoid, said rowboat.  My male observer didn’t agree with my actions.  An Australian voice told me to get into the rowboat.  Politely I disagreed. Really, I thought to myself? Who does he think he is? Despite his wife grabbing at his arm (fear of how we can be perceived) he did not desist in his verbal diarrhea.

Finally feeling the frustration of being ignored (by me) he pointed, and told me to get in the f…king boat. (Please feel free to fill in the correct letters)  His lovely wife (feeling the being “perceived as”) did attempt to curb his tirade whilst four children (not feeling the “perceived as”) sported huge grins. Other passengers followed suit, grinning and outright laughing, at what had become a spectacle. The hunk (he was) and I were at a stalemate.  Interestingly enough, neither one of us really cared others were watching.  The hunk continued pointing and yelling.  I stood my ground.

Finally totally exasperated he said:

“Get in the f…king boat because I refuse to stand here and watch you miss an experience like this one.  I can’t, I just can’t let you. Get in that God damn f….king boat now.”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI did. I don’t know why but once inside the cave I concluded falling victim to insanity fit the bill.  I was in a black hole with a dead weight on top of me. The weight lifted. I sat up and the darkness of nightmares dissipated to reveal magic. Somehow a beam of light from the ceiling hits the water lighting up, not only the cavern, but the water underneath. My heart began to beat in time to azure revelations.  The iridescent wonder whispered to me of forever, and I looked around for fairy dust.

To this day I remember every shade and hue the cavern and water gifted me.  I remember a man on my team.  Yes, it’s not the same thing as donating to charity, or giving a homeless person your scarf but it’s still having your back.  So perhaps it is the same thing after all.

 

Alla prossima,

Barb