The blind leaving the blind June 1, 2009Posted by Jane Matthews in acts of kindness.
Tags: mindful, mindfulness
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It’s only just beginning to dawn on me how many hundreds of opportunities there are in a single day to be a nicer person. I don’t mean the grand gestures, but the ordinary things that mark us out as human rather than automatons. Saying good morning to the sour-looking salesgirl when I buy my paper; asking a colleague how the weekend went and – the tough bit – actually listening to the answer; saying hi to a neighbour rather than pretending I haven’t spotted him in case he wants to stop and chat.
It’s a question of seeing the opportunities…ironically..since the first moment of this particular day involved a blind man.
I was racing along to an early morning meeting, headlights on and wipers wailing at the effort of trying to keep up with the rain. When I spotted a middle aged man with a white stick, standing at the bus stop in the deluge.
I spotted him – and I drove on. Even though it felt like life was shouting at me; something along the lines of “you say you’re going to be nicer, so here, I’ve gift-wrapped this one: blind man, rainy day, empty seat in your car…”.
For all I knew the blind man might be enjoying the smell of rain on pavements and looking forward to meeting his friends on the bus.
Running on automatic
Hmm. Obviously the reason I didn’t stop was that I live the majority of my life on automatic, and my brain, body and the hands gripping the wheel were already pre-programmed to a) leave the house at 8.20 b) take 10 minutes to drive to the coffee shop c) arrive to meet ex-colleaat work at 8.30am precisely.
How many of those 16 or so waking hours do we all spend like that, constantly focused on the next thing? And as the momentum of the day builds, what does it take to slow down, much less divert, to notice the way the rain’s turned the surface of the canal into a bubbling cauldron – or to offer a lift to a soggy man with a white stick?
I wasn’t being actively unkind. Just choosing to remain on automatic rather than human mode.
The regret kicked in immediately, especially as I started to recall all the times in my life people have gone out of their way for me.
Rescue in the mountains
Twenty five years ago I was skiing with friends on top of a mountain in Austria when the weather turned. It was dusk, we were on the wrong side of the mountain, and, as the wind whistled itself into a fury, the ski lift gave a last, ominous gasp, and ground to a halt.
There was no prospect of trying to climb back to the top in the gloom. Our only choice was to ski down into the next valley and take our chances on finding some means of getting back to our hotel.
An hour later we knocked on the door of a farmhouse at the foot of the mountain, explained our predicament and asked for directions to a bus or rail station. The grizzled couple who answered told us there were no services between the valleys at this time of year and ushered us into their parlour to wait until they’d eaten their supper and could drive us back to the hotel.
Let’s be clear, this wasn’t a short hop to the nearest town. The human race may have managed to get people onto the moon but unless you’re Julie Andrews the only way across the mountains is by driving along the length of one valley and then back along the next. Three hours each way in blizzard conditions. The equivalent of driving a group of strangers from London to Manchester, and then back home.
Now that’s going out of your way to help.
Have you ever gone out of your way for anyone? Or had someone go out of their way for you? Love to know…