We had a call today. In Turkey. On our mobile phone. Probably someone who doesn’t know we are away. Or some company that doesn’t know us from the next number.
“It’s our youngest daughter.” Said my wife.
No one who knows where we are calls from England unless that call is needed. Especially family.
So I listened intently to my wife. I studied her body language as she said “Oh dear” and “Really”. Trying to read good news or bad. How long the gaps of listening. How few the words of her own. Running through the checklist of getting home fast. The funds, the flights, the transport, the goodbyes, the four hours in limbo on a plane …
When the call ended with verbal love and hugs exchanged, I found out that our UK grandchild-car and keys were needed by our youngest daughter. The call was to explain why (medical need for one of the wee ones) and ask where (we had hidden the car keys).
Panic over – and we kept in touch as “crisis” was downgraded to “small interruption to normal living” again.
Almost immediately – and ever since – my reaction and inner-frantic-action in those few seconds has been rattling around my head. How that reaction is not so different to our reaction at home with family. But rarely with others.
Others who have (or have not) their own family, their own (or not) support network. How I measure in a very few seconds the cost and need – and then decide on my investment. How I listen and judge not the person – but my response and how I measure the cost of my response. How even “just listening” has a cost. How many heartbeats of my time I think worth giving.
“How are you?” is an example. It may just be an English thing. Because the expected response is “Fine, thank you. How are you?”
Anything different in this “greeting etiquette” comes with a similar “cost checklist” as the call today. Except my investment levels are tiny (compared to today).
The sense of dread when the response is “Well, it’s a bad day … I am glad you asked … How long have you got … ” is immediate and real …
“Someone does not know the rules!”
The rule unwritten that says you don’t burden others with your troubles. You struggle on. You never give up. Things will get better. There is always someone worse off than you – so don’t indulge your own self-pity. That rule.
We call it being British. Understatement. Keeping a stiff upper lip and all that. In emergencies it comes in quite handy.
Except life is rarely “emergencies” and usually “interruptions to normal living” – and the rule of kindness in that circumstance is measured …
“Once she/he started I thought I would never get away!” or “He/she makes everything a drama!”
The Rule of Kindness.
I never knew I had one.