“Katherine. What do you like doing? I like going to the shops. What do you like doing Katherine?”
“I like going to the shops too” I tell Nicole.
“I like handbags. And Shoes” she says.
“Oh. Me too.” I replied with a smile from ear to ear. “Who doesn’t like shoes and handbags!”
“Sorry. What’s your name again?” asks Nicole.
“It’s Katherine.” I reply.
“Oh yes. I’m sorry Katherine.” Nicole says with abject sincerity.
“My Mum died Katherine. I miss my Mum Katherine. Where is my Mum? I miss my Mum” whispers Nicole.
“And she must miss you.” I said, tears welling in my eyes at the thought of this innocent soul left to the vicissitudes of a world without her Mum.
I’d spent the day at The House With No Steps. As a volunteer, you help the people who work there with their daily tasks. On Tuesday it was packing Faber Castel highlighters ready for shipment to stores.
The people who work at the house with no steps are amazing. In our society we call them “people with disabilities”. The very word implies a sense of lacking, less than whole.
Yet the individuals I met last week are larger than life. They are certainly more whole than I. Lisa, Adrian, Nicole, Mark and Amber were honest, kind, thoughtful, frank, real and connected in a way that I simply can not describe.
They were fantastic conversationalists. We traversed everything from vegemite and the debunking of Tony Abbott, to the pain and heartache of losing loved ones. All in the process of sorting and packing a bunch of highlighters.
They were also open and up front. There was none of the usual social awkwardness, dilly-dallying and politics most of us usually experience at work and in life. The minute you were in their presence out came a hand and a hearty handshake followed promptly by a ready introduction and a warm welcoming smile.
I was almost bowled over by Colin at morning tea. His beaming smile and proud tenor spoke volumes as he introduced himself and exclaimed,
“I’ve worked here for over thirty years!”
“A Scot I am” he says.
“Been to the tattoo in Edinburgh.”
“Yeah and a lil’ol town they call Paris too” he says with a grin.
I couldn’t hep but smile. From ear to ear.
All day long.
It just felt so good working and chatting away with these lovely people who welcomed me so readily into their work place for the day. They shared their rituals, routines and tea break with me. They shared their stories, their thoughts. And they opened their hearts as we worked together throughout the day.
What struck me most was the unabashed sincerity, honesty and insight my new colleagues possessed. Adrian made a comment he later deemed inappropriate. So readily announced he was sorry if he offended. Lisa started talking about her brother who had died. So she cried a little and told us she felt sad. Nicole worried about running out of shower soap. So asked for advice about how to go and get more.
We go about our lives. And for an abundance of reasons, we add screen after screen, build wall after wall. Instead of saying sorry, we launch into an all out defensive trying to cover our butts. When our hearts ache and we feel pain, we do everything we can to numb the senses so we can get on with what’s supposedly more important. When we don’t know how to do something or which way to go, we lurch blindly instead of asking for a little help, a little advice. (Perhaps Buddha had a point when he said suffering was a matter of our own choosing).
I felt so damn good after my day at The House With No Steps. I spent a day doing a repetitive task that was inherently meditative. More importantly I spent a day with some people who interacted with me from their hearts and without the usual ‘screens’.
It was joyous, uplifting and liberating beyond words.
It felt really really good.
Yes, I know I said that already.
It felt really really really really good.
The only strange thing was at the end of the day. I was given a certificate for being a volunteer. I did nothing.
Lisa and Adrian and Nicole and Mark and Amber and Colin and all the wonderful people at The House Of Steps did all the giving.
Spending the day with them was a truly wonderful gift.
When I teach yoga to teenagers, I feel exactly the same sense of reward and joy. Their energy is electric and contagious.
When we connect positively with others, for a reason beyond ourselves, or for no reason at all, it feels absolutely fantastic! It brings buoyance and cultivates pure joy.
As we move into the school holidays and the end of Q4 for the year, we have an opportunity to pause before we launch into exams or that final spurt of productivity to hit target.
Why not re-energise with a random act of kindness?
For anyone. Anywhere. And just because it feels good!