Sunday, August 24, 2008

Doing The Right Thing

Yesterday I read this lovely, thought-provoking post by Wife in the North. I was instantly reeled in because it was set in a tea-shop in York. Oh to be transported back to a Fat Rascal for a morning! Why am I yearning for a drizzly morning's cup of tea next to the Ouse when I am minutes away from a palm-tree fringed beach breakfast? Obviously those Chelsea Buns from my internationally famous actress friend have started something at the DNA level!!

The post, along with the comments, made me think about how often we see the right thing to do, but avoid it because it'll be too time-consuming, or potentially embarrassing (a very knee-jerk English response). I know lots of really lovely people, those that are always ready to lend a hand, proffer a Kleenex, ask the right questions, to friends and strangers alike. I am not one of those people. The other day I let a bloke go in front of me in the queue at Trader Joes because he was only buying 4 things and I had a full domestic-diva trolley-full. I spent the next five minutes avoiding his gaze in case he thought I fancied him. Nuts, me.

As a whole though, I tend to shy away from confrontation, from getting involved with other people's lives. I will always listen but I very rarely ask. I'm very rarely the person who steps forward if I see a toddler wandering around by herself in the street, or someone who needs help. I'm always praying someone else will step in first. The situation arises all the time in the office where I work, people need help getting their elderly spouses in and out of wheelchairs, christ, opening doors, how hard is that?

As all good posts are, this one of Wife in the North's was both well-written and thought-provoking. It also reminded me of my brother. My favourite memory of him (can I say memory, when he's alive and kicking and probably right this minute in the pub?!) is when he helped an old lady with a run-away rockery.

LK, my brother and I were walking in to town to meet his then girlfriend for lunch. We were chatting away, strolling past the huge gabled entrances to some of the formidable Victorian homes along Harrogate's Stray, when we noticed an elderly lady struggling to move a massive boulder that had made a bid for freedom from her rockery, and was now in the middle of her drive. I remember my brother doing a comic half-step, a swift turnaround, and all of a sudden he was taking over and rolling the stone back in to position. Such a simple action, completed before we'd even had time to adjust our pace.

I remember how effusively he was thanked 'what a lovely young man', how the red crept up his neck to his ears. I remember thinking what a top bloke he was. I did see the old lady, but it never even occurred to me to help. I tend to blame innate shyness, or awkwardness on my part, but that is, as you Americans would say, a very 'lame' excuse. I need to step up to the plate more. It is a trait I very much dislike in myself. A trait I would not like Anna to inherit, so I need to lead by example.

Oh the horror.


Hyphen Mama said...

I go through phases where I'm the person who helps everybody. Then in another 5 years I'll be the person who makes no eye contact and hopes nobody sees that I'm not noticing the person who needs help. I blame it on my state of mind at that particular juncture. Now I force myself to at least try to be helpful if I can and if it would require that I go too far out of my way, then I don't. And I don't beat myself up when I don't.

Antonia said...

I'm going to York tomorrow. I will have a rust-coloured cup of tea, beside the Ouse and under the threat of rain, just for you.

I used to feel shy and awkward about stopping and helping strangers, but something in me polarised at some point and now I love to do it. Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner. Being friendly and helpful here is quite the anarchic thing to do.

I'll say hello to Barnitts for you, too.

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