Looking out over the lake, we three, once strangers, now felt the invisible bonds that tie us.
I thought once again about the strange strings of coincidences that weave my life into the lives of others, and the wider fabric of the world.
It was tempting to think about the unpleasant discussions of the previous day, but I was making a conscious effort to see past my own grievances and petty hang-ups, and look out into the world as it is: filled with the light of incredible beings. I would not and will not give up my faith in humanity. Period.
. . .
This faith is fueled by people like Francine - a French lady from Lyon. We met Francine while helping at an organic farm. Some would say she is tough, abrupt, tells it like she sees it. They would be right. But it would be only one part of the picture… Francine could make you laugh till you cry, she makes heavenly crepes, and she has a way with words - always saying certain catchphrases that stick in my mind even now:
It’s not possible! For me, it’s not possible!
It’s just amaaa-zsssing!
The dog looks so desesperate. [extra s intended].
Francine cares with all her heart, and she is not the only one. In Norway, I was reminded again and again of the kindness of people. Bente - an Airbnb host who, upon overhearing that it was my birthday, presented me with a hand-knitted gift and a hug. We hardly knew each other. Then there was Sanya, the manager of a visitor’s center, who sat with us a long while, telling us all manner of Norwegian folk tales, and giving us spiced cookies. These are just two of the incredible people we have met and connected with so far on our journey - if I were to tell the tales of each one, it might take me till dinner.
Some people say that they are ‘world-weary,’ cynical and beaten back by reality. Instead I feel the opposite! Each new day on the road gives me a new reason to believe in the goodness, no, the greatness of people!
. . .
And so we come to it: the crux of this story, and the gnarled little walnut at the center of my ponderings: namely, my uneasy interactions with people who tick me off. Sometimes I think that I am meant to like all people, and surely they should all like me. Then it becomes difficult, because there are some people who just don’t vibe with me. Take, for instance, our Help-X hosts in Norway. Nice people, good hosts, generous and kindly (most of the time). And yet, our personalities did not match even for a second. It was hard going, those three weeks - trying not to get annoyed, and trying not to take things personally felt like a mission to mars. At first I was determined to make it work. Then I gave up and got pissed off. I entertained the notion that ‘maybe these people are crazy!’ and began to count up every crazy thing they did.
Then, finally, the magic happened… I realized that these people did not have to like me, nor I them, but I could still choose to see their humanity. I could choose to see that they were, in fact, JUST LIKE ME! There they were: living, breathing, suffering and searching for happiness just as I am. All their annoying quirks could be mine too - I will admit that I, too, do not listen properly on occasion, and I, too, have been known to act erratically or get emotional. In fact, all those things I was so annoyed about were things I knew I was capable of. In the past I would also hoard enormous amounts of stuff and let it sit collecting dust. I am sometimes a bit of a recluse, wishing to spend time alone each day. I get people’s names wrong, or forget them altogether.
When I saw this I laughed. It seemed that my impressions were coming from a place of judgement, and judgements are often made when a person is made uncomfortable by their own reflection. Someone may judge a girl for wearing a tight dress. Does this mean the girl in the tight dress is immoral? Or does it mean the person judging wishes to dissociate themselves from the perceived immorality, whether it be because they were judged similarly in the past, or they fear their own natural feelings of attraction?
A difficult concept to wrap your head around, maybe, but once learned it becomes quite simple to apply. When I am bothered by someone or something, I try ask myself this simple question:
Sometimes the answer is easy - as in: I personally think it is wrong to treat animals cruelly. But oftentimes, I am met with my own reflection - my own fears, my own issues. Look past these, and you can find compassion for almost anyone you come across.
My first weeks in Norway were tough, yes. But out of the mud rises the lotus flower, and out of this difficult situation I grew to find the light again.
No, I will never give up my faith in humanity.