I sometimes despair of the world. There is so much greed. Young people are obsessed with how they look and not who they are. Older adults are obsessed with what they have, what car they drive and where they go on holiday so that they can brag to their friends. We’re often too busy in our overly-full-of-stuff lives to bother much with our neighbours or vulnerable family members. Gone are the days where we all used to not have much of anything but looked out for each other nonetheless.
Despite huge need at times, I haven’t exactly been on my nearest and dearest’s radar (parents aside). It’s probably my own fault. I am fiercely independent and don’t want to be treated as a victim, because I don’t feel like a victim. I don’t want pity or charity, though loving kindness is always welcomed. I appear to have it all together and it takes a keen eye to see through the act I put on every day.
When I joined my Camera Club I struggled. It was mostly full of retired professional men who had formerly been Vets or Solicitors and who seemed to have money to burn, or middle aged women who were married to rich men and had holiday homes in Barbados and Spain. They were buying the latest cameras, lenses and equipment and I, stony broke, was making do with a nine year old 3rd hand camera off Ebay.
My weird and creative pictures often weren’t much liked by the old male judges who preferred photos of steam trains or lighthouses, and at one stage I threatened to quit because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the rich members and the judges hated my stuff in any event. I emailed the competition secretary and told him of my decision but instead of just accepting it he helped me. We ‘talked’ for hours via email, with him encouraging me at every step of the way, building my confidence and listening patiently to my grievances. The outcome was that the way the competitions were run was changed for the whole club, and a big effort was made to invite female and younger people to judge our images which made for a more level playing field for everyone.
I’d not even spoken to the competition secretary, John, before then. He was 70, very shy and I hadn’t taken much notice of him to be honest. But as I got to know him I realized here was a man kind to the bottom of his soul, who lived with honesty and integrity, who saw both sides of the argument, who was quiet and unassuming yet had the strength to stand up for what he believed in if the need arose. We got on like a house on fire and have regularly emailed each other ever since, though we still don’t speak much at Club as John’s shyness gets in the way.
This week there was an offer online for some software. I can’t afford it, but with $200 off the recommended price I couldn’t resist buying it anyway! But then I discovered that it won’t work with my editing software, Photoshop Elements 11, because it’s too old. John had found the same thing, so he upgraded his Photoshop to Elements 13 and offered to let me put a copy of his new Elements 13 on my machine. Knowing that you can only do this a limited number of times and that John had more than one laptop, I emailed my thanks but told him to put the software on his own machines and maybe I’d ask Santa for the upgrade for Christmas this year.
This morning, I logged on to my emails to find a message from John which read: “Jak. Thanks for making the correct moral decision. I have now ordered you Elements 13 from Amazon which will be delivered to your home next week. Please accept with my best wishes.” I feel tearful even now just thinking of his kindness. Not only that but my lack of greed in not taking one of his licences, even though I really wanted and needed it, had been acknowledged and appreciated. I can’t possibly accept his offer and have already emailed to say I will reimburse him, but I suspect he won’t accept.
As I said earlier, I haven’t been helped much in my life but now and again someone comes along who sees past my pride and bravado and recognises that I struggle. As a kid it was a couple of teachers, who realized that being a very bright kid from a dysfunctional working class family was difficult and who gave me extra help to achieve my potential. As an adult, it’s been a couple of people who have realized that living alone with debilitating illness and a lack of money is challenging and have helped me in subtle, and not so subtle, ways. They will never know the difference their belief in me and their acts of kindness have made to my life and to my faith in human nature.
Nearly all the people who have helped me have been men, middle aged or older. I don’t know why that should be, but they just seem able to see past the strong, independent, capable face I show to the world and recognize that maybe my life is harder than I let on. Maybe they just see that, despite my own hardships (or probably because of them) I try to be a kind and thoughtful person and they want to be kind back. I don’t really understand the reasons why women haven’t helped me, even as a kid, while men have but I am truly grateful.
We all need help sometimes, even when we pretend we don’t, and our small acts of kindness can be returned to us tenfold in unexpected ways and from unexpected people.