Do You Nourish Or Tarnish

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Do You Nourish Or Tarnish - 2011/04/21

In my wild erratic fancy / visions come to me of Clancy / Gone a droving "Down the Cooper" where the Western drovers go

As the stock are slowly stringing / Clancy rides behind them singing / For a drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush has friends to meet him / and their kindly voices greet him / In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars.

And he sees the vision splendid / of the sunlight plain extended / And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

There are people I know who are like the sunshine in the morning of a Spring day. They illuminate, warm, nourish, and make one's life better.

Some people, of course, are more like the full glare of the midday sun at the height of Summer. Too much exposure and you are burned out - damaged, and unable to function normally. But good friends, really good friends, will recharge your batteries and lift your spirits.

There are others, though, who aren't like that. They see only what's theirs, see only their own position, their own situation, their own rights, their own entitlement.

As an example, today I went out to buy a litre of milk from the local store. It was surprisingly busy, and I settled myself at the end of one of the two long queues, ready to think about one of the many problems I keep in mind for such times.

The lady immediately in front of me, though, looked at her laden trolley, piled high, and gestured for me to go ahead. I was slightly startled, but pleased. All those times I've done the same, and here I am being repaid. We had a small exchange of banter, and I moved ahead.

The lady now in front of me also had a very full trolley. I smiled, and said - "Would you mind if I went ahead of you? This is all I have." She smiled in return and said "Not at all." So again, I moved ahead one.

This seemed to be working, so I said to the third lady, again, also with an extremely full trolley (although mostly unpacked onto the conveyor) and said, "This is all I have - would you mind if I jumped ahead?"

I am sitting in my dingy / little office where a stingy / ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall.

And the foetid air and gritty / of the dusty, dirty city / Through the open window floating spreads its foulness over all.

"There's a queue," came the reply. "Yes," I said, "But this is all I have."

"Yeah, well, there's a queue," she repeated.

I got the message. "There is no way you'll win this." said the rational, cynical, pessimistic part of my brain.

No way.

Now, you'd think that I'd just stay there, having got ahead as much as I had, but it just didn't feel right. In truth, I didn't really want to be near this third lady person. All the light and warmth had gone. I returned to the end of the queue, and again settled down to wait, exchanging knowing looks with both of the ladies now between us.

And the hurrying people daunt me / and their pallid faces haunt me / as they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste.
I wondered why the third time wasn't a charm. I wondered what the problem was. My checkout would take all of 30 seconds, while hers was going to take a good 4 to 5 minutes. I'd never claim that my time is more valuable than hers, I genuinely don't think that, but the relative gain exceeded the relative loss by such a huge margin.

With their eager eyes and greedy / and their stunted forms, and weedy, / for townsfolk have to time to grow they have no time to waste.
Perhaps she was just in a hurry, and really didn't have the time. Not even the 30 seconds. Or perhaps she simply thought that "There is a queue" and she had her place, and there was no way she was going to yield it. It was her right. It was her entitlement. She got there first, it was hers, and no one would take it from her.

I don't know. I can't say. But I felt, well, tarnished by the interaction. I felt diminished by the response.

I wonder how she felt. I wish I hadn't asked.

Just as there are those who enrich the lives, even just by a little, of those with whom they have contact, there are people who tarnish the souls of those they meet. No doubt this woman simply thinks it was improper for me to have asked at all, but I've always felt that life's a lot nicer when people make time and space for each other. Even for strangers.

Especially for strangers.

And I somehow rather fancy / that I'd like to change with Clancy / Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go.

While he faced the round eternal / of the cash book and the journal. / But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy of the Overflow.

So I do what I can to spend time with those people who genuinely nourish my soul. People who are warm and generous, and not just with their friends, but also with strangers. I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of them over the years, and it's to my detriment that I don't get enough time with them.

And I try to do the same. I try to make life a little easier and better for those around me. I'll make small sacrifices for larger returns, even when those sacrifices are mine, and the returns go to others. I don't even ask that life is fair. To mis-quote The Man in Black in The Princess Bride: Life's not fair, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

So I just try to make it better in small ways.

So what about you? When someone interacts with you, are their souls tarnished?

Or nourished?

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