The world is wonderful, crazy, ugly, cruel, beautiful, hostile, trusting, tiny, enormous. The world is a million different things, all of them contradictory, just like the people in it. And it can be hard to pick out the good, filter the bad, and stay positive.
It’s even harder to make a difference. What does that mean, really? Perhaps to pass through this life, have some fun, and leave it in better shape in some way. Yet most of us cannot write a classic, paint a masterpiece, build a monument, or earn a star on the Walk of Fame. All we have is everyday acts in mundane lives. But here’s the thing.
We can’t change the whole world, but we can change people. We can’t change people, but we can change their minds. We can’t change their minds, but we can change their experience.
When we change their experience, they change their own minds, their own behaviour, and their own worlds.
This happened to me
Early one Tuesday morning, I parked in a distant corner of a windswept station car park. I rarely used the train, but I had a conference to attend, and driving wasn’t practical. I also knew that parking was expensive, so a few days before I’d changed some notes for a handful of one pound coins. I waited my turn to feed the meter behind a smartly dressed woman, my bag of coins jingling like treasure in my pocket.
The woman dug through her purse, then wailed, “Oh no.” She searched her handbag, muttering to herself. “I don’t have time,” she said.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“No, no, I have to catch the 7.47 and I’m out of change, there’s no time.” She glanced over to the ticket office, and I made the calculations with her.
Three minutes’ walk there in heels, wait in the queue, buy something, get some change, three minutes’ walk back. Assuming she had her ticket already. It was already 7.30 and the timing was tight.
I checked the price list, weighed the money in my hand. “How much do you need?”
“I’m £3 short, but—”
“Here.” I passed her three coins, and her mouth dropped open. “Take it, I brought extra.”
“I’ve got a £10 note, I’ll give it back to you,” she said. She sniffed, and blinked rapidly. “Thank you so much. Which train are you getting?”
“Same as you, but don’t worry about it.”
We bought our tickets and she skipped back to her car. Some minutes later, as I waited on the platform, she brought me the money with a smile.
“You saved my life,” she said.
Maybe it was synchronicity. I had extra coins and she needed them. Neither of us knew that our chance meeting would change our lives, if only briefly. Was she going to an interview, a vital meeting, a date? I’d never know, but I knew I felt better, and so did she. My boring conference day was lit by the soft glow of knowing I’d made a tiny, but important difference.
This also happened to me
Traffic crawled slowly in the rain-lashed evening dark. I tried to calm my breathing, but couldn’t stop my leg bouncing. We had booked this concert not knowing the venue, rushed to drive up after work, and now we were going to be late. The queue inched forward, and when we finally got into the multi storey it was full. Up and up we went, eventually parking in the furthest corner of the roof level.
I grabbed my coat and purse, and queued again in the cold. It was more expensive than I thought, and I’d brought all the change from the car. I could have wept. At least no-one would see my tears, on cheeks already wet from waiting without an umbrella. I exhaled, and someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“Are you short? Take what you need.” He held out his hand, full of coins. Right then they were more precious to me than treasure.
I looked at him and smiled. “Thank you, I just ran out of change.”
“No bother, pet.”
I fed the meter, ran back to the car with the ticket, and we made it to our seats just in time. I blessed my unknown saviour for his generosity, and my tension fell away, ready to enjoy the evening.
Did he feel virtuous? I hope so, because he turned my whole day around.
Maybe it was synchronicity. Our good deeds send positive vibrations into the universe, and just sometimes it echoes back in our own time of need. We already live in a world that is supportive, helpful, encouraging, and loving. When we see it that way, we can all change our corner of the world, one generous act at a time.
First published in The Creative Cafe on Medium, 9th March