This article was originally published in DIVA Magazine September 2019
I almost got in a fight the other day. I saw a woman drop a piece of rubbish out of her car window and I tsked quietly as I walked past on the other side of the road. Then I thought to myself, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’, so I walked over and I picked it up, without acknowledging her and walked away.
I went to a cash point just over the road and before too long I heard an ‘OI’ over my shoulder. I gulped and turned round to see the rather intimidating, clearly-could-take-me-in-a-fight woman. She shouted ‘WHAT DID YOU JUST PICK UP OUTSIDE MY CAR?’. I was at a cash point and, quite frankly, was a little embarrassed, so I turned back around hoping she’d just call me a name and drive off. But she persisted ‘ERM EXCUSE ME, WHAT DID YOU JUST PICK UP OUTSIDE MY CAR?’
Knowing she wasn’t going to leave without an answer I held up my hand for her to see the crumpled lollipop wrapper. ’I PICKED UP YOUR RUBBISH’ I shouted back aggressively, not quite engaging the fight or flight part of my brain. She looked surprised, maybe even a little embarrassed and I thought for a moment perhaps my point had been made. But then she called me a bitch and drove away.
After the dizziness of the playground bully anxiety subsided, I thought about what this interaction was a symptom of. I honestly believe the biggest obstacle in our culture is selfishness. The more we focus on ourselves and what we feel that we deserve to suck from the planet and society in the few years we have on this earth, the more we allow the cracks to appear in the glue that holds this whole show together.
What’s mad is that research suggests that givers tend to be some of the ‘luckiest’ in our society. The idea being that if you give to a lot of people, you attract people that want to help you right back. Of course you’ll attract ‘takers’ but once you suss them out, you stop giving to them and they soon move on to leech from someone else. It’s slightly more complicated than that (see Adam Grant’s TED Talk) but as a whole, thats the system.
So imagine a world in which we all gave more, to the planet, to our colleagues, to our friends and family and even to perfect strangers. We’d be sipping Malibu and Cokes and sharing stories about the cute little grandma who you helped walk across the road and who gave you a fiver that you then gave to a coffee shop to pay forward for a homeless person and a super hot mega babe overheard you do it and asked you on a date and you BANGED ALL NIGHT.
I don’t know for sure that would happen but I do know that if you want to find yourself surrounded by generous, thoughtful, empathetic people, then the best bet is to be one yourself.