This is my latest readwave.com submission. For other short stories visit the website.
Caring about People
If you consider the subject of ‘things you care about’ it can change with the weather and your mood. So in choosing ‘people’ I have singled out the area that I’ve learned to appreciate with age. I also realise by choosing this huge area there may be a problem with the word limit!
Coming from a background where there was an innate distrust of certain classes and types of people it has taken many years to learn to appreciate the wealth of richness that can be gleaned from interacting with others. It also may seem strange that someone who taught for over thirty years only began to appreciate the beauty in other people once leaving that profession. I suppose it was really a ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’ scenario.
Teaching is fraught with rules, procedures and psychological ‘fashions’ that tend to get in the way of the fact that you are working with apprentice adults. The classes are too big, time is too short and stress is too high to allow the formation of proper relationships. I actually come from a generation of professionals that were allowed, in fact encouraged, to have the children follow their own ideas, drawing in more formal elements of education as was appropriate to the topic being pursued. It still sounds ‘warm and fuzzy’ to me as I write this.
My next conscious encounter with ‘real’ people was when I took a job in a call centre servicing bank accounts for one of the main banking institutions. If you can imagine stepping out from a stuffy building into a bright spring day with a touch of leftover winter’s chill in the air but the promise of clean warmth later, then that was the summation of the experiences of meeting the people with whom I was to be working. There are probably reasons like my age relative to their ages and my previous experiences that still generated respect, but the overall impression was ‘feel good’. That’s not to say that there weren’t people who I found difficult to appreciate but age and experience teaches patience.
In many ways, as with teaching, life gets in the way of what people are really like. We all have our needs, fears and abilities, but one thing which is often considered ‘soft’ is the generosity of spirit that people often display. Yes it is an option but I don’t think I’ve met many people who never display their sensitive, generous side at some time or other. Unfortunately, I did work for a lady who had great difficulty relating with other members of the human race, at the time of the birth of my first child. On my return to work, after the birth and a few days paternity leave, I was requested to go into her office where she presented me with a gift. It was the way that she did this that displayed her total limitations with people. She took out a carrier bag containing the gift from behind her desk, said ‘Congratulations’ patted me nervously on the shoulder and ushered me out of her office. There was half a bottle of champagne style booze in the carrier. In a sense there was so much wrong with that encounter and yet I ended up feeling sorry for her until the next time she felt that she needed to congratulate me. I obtained my first degree at the age of 36 and after three years part time study, and informed her of the results. Her response was that my degree, Bachelor of Education Honours, was a class below most normal degrees! I stopped feeling sorry for her.
Yet since leaving teaching and doing a little more travelling I’ve met some wonderful people and maintained great friends. So my advice to everyone is listen and watch people carefully you will be truly energised by the small, repeated acts of kindness that you observe and it has the overall effect of restoring faith in human nature.
As I enjoy films, and even though they are scripted and performed, they occasionally come up with some gems that are worth repeating and I’m thinking of two particular examples.
First from ‘We Bought a Zoo’ “I missed the people man” came from the brother of the star Matt Damon. He was describing the experiences in trying to escape the pain he had, after being jilted by his wife.
Secondly, from a Morgan Freeman film in which he played God (for a change), ‘Evan Almighty’, he said that it was possible to change the world with a single act of random kindness or:-