This morning on the bus, after noting a conversation about fares between the driver and two young international students had been going some time, I stuck my nose in and asked if they were short of change. It turns out they only needed £1 and I gladly gave it to them so they could get where they were going without further difficulty. Aside from doing a good deed and helping them in a way that wasn’t any big deal to me, I also enjoyed the thought of playing for a minute the character of an anonymous, mysterious young woman who, unexpectedly, and with expert timing, offered assistance and then went back to listening to her mp3 plyaer as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.
It is curious for me, curious enough to blog about such a random and, on the face of it, unexceptional fragment of my day because it did feel somewhat exceptional. I enjoy the drama of making a decision to insert myself into a scene I could quite easily not interfere and testing my hunch that I can make a positive contribution.
My standard tactic for years was to ignore the goings on of other people in my vicinity unless they directly concerned or threatened me. The irony of this being that I have always wanted to help. I have always believed offering help when you can reasonably and practically assist is the right thing to do. What stopped me for years was a lack of confidence in my ability to judge:
1) whether I can reasonably and practically add something of value to the given situation,
2) the balance between my vanity and the actual benefit I can offer is such that I am not making an excuse to be really quite obnoxious.
It is a pretty big thing for me to be able to return to an aspect of my character that I am really not proud of (vanity and desire for attention/recognition) that I have attempted to repress for years, tackling it by trying to find its positive side and the ways in which I can temper it.
I suppose, in essence, what I am trying to do is to find a way to reconcile the values I hold that centre around two different points. Firstly: politeness, not making a scene, not interfering with other people’s business, not being obviously self serving, showing restraint. These all seem to come under the umbrella of dignity and saving face. Secondly: care, compassion, passion, creativity, expressing what it means for me to be an emotionally driven and sometimes irrational human being, reaching out to other people, sharing with other people. I suppose in another way they could be thought of as kinds of behaviours that have traditionally been divided by the distinction between public and private life. I have struggled with this tension for years and years and have mostly resolved the problem in ways that (when I look back) seem even more bizarre than my penchant for spending far too long musing about my values and the minutiae of my everyday life.
I honestly feel, therefore, that this constitutes progress. Make of that what you will 😉
In actual fact, I suspect I gained a lot more from this interaction on the bus then the two young lads did. They only got £1 out of it. I got an opportunity to examine my character, hiearchy of values and to confront one of my demons and also a topic for a blog post! Not bad, eh?