Kicks for free?

When’s the last time you did anything for free? Probably just yesterday I hear you say when you washed up or hoovered or worked in the garden. Things we usually do like this for free are still usually for some reward.. we get to live in a clean house, a pretty garden etc.

When I studied psychology I came across the word altruism as a young woman in her early 20s. I hadn’t heard of it before and I still find the idea of whether we actually ever do anything completely altruistically or not an interesting concept. Do we ever do something for free and for no reward?

I thought I was doing so last Sunday. I volunteered to be a marshall for a 10k race. When I realised it was going to be a Sunday morning at 8.30am on bank holiday weekend after a night out in Manchester I was re thinking my offer to volunteer!! However up I got and at 8.40am found myself directing cars on a field wearing a green fluorescent jacket (these jackets have powers.. they make people think you know what you’re doing!) and shortly after this I was in a field next to a pole that said marshall and I waited in the sunny silence for the runners to reach their half way point.

An incredibly short time later the first runner appeared along the canal parallel to my standing point. He had a kilometre or so to get to me.. I watched him enter the field and make his way around the orange markers finally heading towards me where I nervously clapped my hands and muttered well done pointing him on his way to the next marker! As the elite runners made headway the next batch came through ….my marshalling confidence grew as I made some ‘jokes” about beer being available at the next stop and even conducted a mexican wave all by myself. The runners seemed amused thankfully.

So was this me being altruistic?! Was this me giving my time up for nothing in return. As it turns out. Absolutely not.

From the moment I stepped on the field the buzz from the runners was infectious. The excitement oozed into my brain. I met new people and I haven’t been in a situation where so much gratitude was shown for a long time. Certainly not in any paid work! How so many runners managed to say thank you as they ran past in that heat, already tired, I don’t know. But it made me feel good.

So there’s my little story from this week. The best I’ve felt in a long time is volunteering on a sunny hill in North Wales. Working without pay isn’t on the top of most people’s list but the pay on this occasion far outweighed pounds and pence!

Happy Sunday everyone x x x

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The drive.

My blogs this year are going to be more about observations it seems…..So another post about a woman crying.  I wonder sometimes if things are sent to you.  To make you think. To stop you in your tracks. To make you ask a question?  What would you do?

A few days ago I was driving to work listening to Mr Sam Smith who frankly I’m addicted to at the moment.  Tottering along at a much slower pace these days. Before Tes I drove at maximum speed now I totter and look and basically don’t rush in any way. I get everywhere the same time that I used to!

Anyway I digress. As I approached the town half way to work and turned right on a lane scattered with grey stone buildings,  a busy garage and the odd for sale sign here and there. She sat on a ledge on the side of the road. Her face leaned forward but not far enough forward that her eyes could not be seen.  Tears fell down her tired face. She was trying to hide her involuntary anguished expressions.  She couldn’t.   There was a large bag next to feet. This seemed significant.

I drove on. I thought about pulling in but I wasn’t sure. What would this woman think of a stranger asking her if she’s ok? Would she welcome it or would she be offended? I drove on.  Then a flash. A memory of myself sitting waiting anxiously, almost 2 years ago, outside a house.  I was the woman sitting in tears alone.

And here was I driving on.

So I turn around. I have to. I drive back  and she’s still sitting there. I don’t know what I’m going to say. I slow down and I’m nervous.  As I indicate she looks at me.  As I stop she looks at me quizzically.  I know already she doesn’t want me to stop. But I have.

‘Are you ok?’ I ask.

She nods her head sadly, biting lightly on her lip, now looking at the ground again.

‘Are you sure?’ I ask.

Nothing.

‘Is there anything I can do?’.

This time she shakes her head.

It all took about 30 seconds.  I gently smile and close the window, put my car in gear and continue on my way.  I felt a little silly at first.  Had I interfered?  Did I embarass her?  Maybe. But what was the alternative?

I’ve read a lot on altruism and how we are never actually altruistic.  We don’t do anything apparently without there being something in it for us. I’m not sure I agree but perhaps on this occasion I offered help so that I wouldn’t feel bad. Whatever the reason surely it’s better to step out of your comfort zone and ask the question?

Sam Smith continues to croon through my speakers about his lonely hour and I drive on with hope that at least the woman will know whatever is going on in her life, people out there care.

We all need that in our life.

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