The Kindness of Strangers – are there 36 of them out there?

I was having a moment a few days ago.  Freaking out really – about the school holidays, pressure at work, politics at work.  The usual.

It’s at these times that I tend to lose the perspective I so badly need.  My world becomes a box of stress with all my bullshit bouncing off the walls and back at me.  I become a shouty, bad tempered mother and I can generally be found talking firmly (read: loudly or screechy) into my mobile phone at whoever is upsetting the natural balance of my world.

And then I started thinking about the natural balance of the world and how sometimes it feels like the planets are just not aligned – at all.  With a strong drink in hand or a bar of chocolate I can usually realign my world– that’s balance if ever you’ve needed it………

However, there’s a concept in Judaism that at any time there needs to be 36 righteous people in the world.  This concept was themed in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code a few years go and was the first time I had ever heard it mentioned.  Known as the lamedvavniks (based on the Hebrew numbers of 30, lamed and 6, vav) these people are unknown to each other, to us and even to themselves (humility is one of the identified traits) but it is said that their goodness of spirit creates that natural balance and keeps things on an even keel for us all.  I’m not coming from a religious bent here – but I kind of like the thought that there are 36 good people out there at any one time.  I am sure there are more.

Through my work I have had the privilege of meeting some extraordinary people, making an extraordinary difference in the world.  Do they form part of this mystical 36?  Probably not, but they inspired me to a point where I was able to stop, give myself a good slap across the head and refocus.

To share, one of these people was Bobby Sager, an American philanthropist who came toSydneyto front a big event for the organisation I work with.  Bobby isn’t about handing out bucket-loads of cash, he’s about empowering people to help themselves.  He travels with his family – toRwanda, toAfghanistan– to places where people need a hand up.  But that’s not even what I’m talking about.  The inherent goodness of the man was overwhelming.  And it’s something that has permeated through to his kids Tess and Shane who have been travelling with him since they were small children.  They too have an inherent need to help others and a responsibility to the world as a whole.  His website Team Sager may inspire you further.

More recently I met Peter Baines, another ordinary person who is truly extraordinary.  A former policeman who now moonlights as motivational speaker to fund his real passion – Hands Across The Water (HATWA) – a charity he set up after leading a forensics team inThailandfollowing the 2006 Boxing Day Tsunami.  Peter is committed long-term  to his projects as opposed to being what I call just a crisis tourist.  It’s the commitment of people like this to complete strangers that brings tears to my eyes and great big sobs to my chest. 

Living in a world with such introspection and selfishness – where “me first” is the order of the day along with your first latte – people like that give people like me hope when I am overwhelmed with my small, petty bullshit.  I could probably continue to name many others – would there be 36?  Not that I can honestly think of or that I personally know.

But in closing I do have to make mention of the young paramedic that attended to a lady with special needs in our building who has epileptic fits.  One day last year after a particularly bad fit, two paramedics arrived from the hospital close by to attend to her.  One was young, really young.  Looked like 20 to me, tall, good looking.  But all this aside, it was his kindness that literally left me sobbing quietly in a corner as I watched while he worked on a complete stranger, old enough to be his grandmother but with the mind of an 8 year old child.  This is what separates the real from the rubbish.

So, note to self, when you’re having a day when nothing’s making sense, you’re screaming down the phone and you can’t see your way out of that box, remember that its not love and money that makes the world go round, it’s the kindness of strangers.

And let’s hope that there are at least 36 of them out there………

One comment

  1. Michelle Higgins

    Oh, that was gorgeous! I have had too many shouty days of late too and you are so right – mostly it is petty BS. And people who have devoted their lives to making others lives better are the true inspiration.

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