Monday, 7 May 2007

Silver clouds

You know those Chevy Chase movies where everything sort-of falls apart, like one thing after another? Well, my family vacations were actually like that (think extensive "scenic detours" and imploding motorhomes) and as amusing-slash-disastrous as that was growing up, I had always planned on my own vacations being a little more peaceful and vacation-like.


My trip to Spain with Emma and Ade turned out to be similarly amusing-slash-disastrous (think disastrous in the sense that no one died, no long-term damage was done etc, just materially unfortunate). To quickly sum up the dramatic highlights: I lost my wallet (in Cambridge) including my passport, bankcards and allll my cash, missed my flight to Barcelona, had to wait four days to sort anything out since everything was closed for Easter weekend, had to travel to the us embassy and buy an emergency passport, buy a new flight, finally made it to Spain where my bankcard didn't work (sorry Emma), got food poisoning in Toledo, was sick in the Madrid metro (sorry Madrillenos), then after barely making it back to Cambridge, my bike and I had a serious altercation with the pavement of Mill Road where I left behind patches of clothing and skin. Basically I'm not going to travel or eat gazpacho for a really long time - BUT that's not the point: even though with each new thing I was increasingly uncomfortable, I increasingly appreciated - on a really personal, immediate level - the power of human kindness.

For example, when I finished crawling around the bus floor in search of my wallet, the bus driver asked me if I had enough money to make a phone call and pressed a two pound coin into my hand.

When I realized I would be staying in Cambridge for the weekend and didn't really have any food in my flat, a friend in my ward invited me to a picnic with her and her children - her daughter drew me a card, my friend brought me lunch and she also brought the children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" for us to read, haha.

When I was ill on the metro, Emma not only held my hair back but gave me her coat to be sick into!

When I crashed my bicycle, a man on the side of the street yelled, "aaugh!" and ran to collect me and my belongings from the pavement and guided me to the sidewalk.

Even though losing my wallet, wrecking my bike etc were all just superficial unpleasant experiences, the sweetness of human kindness was like some wonderful nectar, some really profound force that sustained me in the moment and has made this past month one of my most treasured times in Cambridge. I'm really not being sappy here, right? I just want to share how I have been blessed by dear dear people who, whether they knew me or not, loved me and helped me when I was having a rough moment - and, in doing so, allowed me to glimpse the world as a place where charity and goodness do rule -- how beautiful!


Courtney said...

How horrible! But then wonderful. It's things like that which give me hope in humanity.

Monica said...

You know, sometimes I think that with all the negativity we see in the media, etc, we can forget how many wonderful, kind, really good people there are in the world. Thank goodness for experiences like these that help us to remember that.

Alexandra said...

Yeah, and I feel like in addition to reminding us of the inherent goodness of humanity, experiences like these illustrate how the seemingly small things we do can dramatically affect people's lives. And I think it's easy to forget that, right? Like, sometimes we think we ought to be doing bigger and better things to serve people - like dropping out of university and moving to India to help the poor (Aud, Jo, Court, remember how we discussed this after seeing that film on Mother Theresa?) - but I think charity is a perspective that is slowly, increasingly woven into our character as we love more people more deeply, as we are loving stewards with the lives we are able to touch in our own spheres of influence. Yeah? Is that enough? What do you think? I mean, we're talking about developing the one thing without which we are nothing - ha, pretty important.

Emma said...

I think that whenever we have experiences that broaden our understanding and worldview, it makes us better able to love and appreciate the people and things around us. If that's not a fantastic way to develop charity, I don't know what is. When I got back from studying abroad in Belize, I just remember feeling - for months! - so grateful for all the things that I had: air conditioning, education, running water, vegetables (!!!), mobility... the list goes on and on.

That experience didn't necessarily inspire me to radically change what I was doing with my life, but I do think that it deepened my understanding of how many of my fellow men live. I also feel that because I recognize that I have a disproportionate amount of temporal resources and blessings, it makes me more mindful of what I need to give back.

So, I think even small things like that can really help us to develop charity. We know that no matter how much we do, we will always be unprofitable servants to the Lord - so the idea of giving back "enough" doesn't resonate with me, because I know that "enough" doesn't exist. But I think that being better attuned to how we can serve others and give more is always a good thing.

Courtney said...

I recently posted about this on my blog. I don't think charity is based on service projects or the big things. You can organize and participate in the world's largest service projects and organizations and it won't mean you are charitable. Even if you don't get around to volunteering at the soup kitchen, if you can stop an help that poor woman who crashed her bike on the side of the road, if you can recognize a young mother in need of a friend, or other SMALL things, I think that is what defines charity. It is not enough to do service, but you must be a serving person. I think that's why it isn't required to move to India or other drastic things. There are enough people around us who need help. We should do our part to serve the community and the world, but I think actual charity is a characteristic, a personality trait, and not an action or a list of things to "change the world." (Not that I thought any of you were suggesting otherwise.)

Monica said...

Speaking of crashing and burning (Alexandra's bicycle accident) - I had a nasty fall on my Rollerblades two days ago as I tried to avoid a car that was on a collision course with my legs. Needless to say, I completely lost my balance and landed right on my back in the middle of the street, hitting my head pretty hard in the process (I still have a little bit of a headache from it, actually). The driver of the car stopped, but did not get out of the car. On the other side of the street, however, a woman was sitting in her car getting ready to go to work and saw the whole thing. She immediately came over and helped me up and offered me a ride home since I could hardly stand due to my legs shaking so much. I was so touched by her kindness in going out of her way to help me. Yay for good people in the world!

Alexandra said...

(a) I am so glad you are alright!! I hope you heal quickly and am glad you weren't hurt any worse!

(b) Haha, I am also glad to see you are keeping up the early 90s trend of rollerblading! (I love it too)