By Hayley Doyle
It’s possible that I have a reputation for being disappointed.
I don’t have high expectations of anybody. Don’t make huge demands. But I do tend to put a bit too much faith in humanity. I give the benefit of the doubt. My go-to feeling about people is that they’re good. Honest. They’ll have your back if you have theirs. And, sadly, time and time again I’ve been proved wrong.
Oh, grow up, Hayley! Act your age, for goodness sake! Didn’t you learn how to cope with this sorta stuff in the playground? The world’s a mean old place. Get used to it. And get your head out of planet fairyland. Nobody owes you nothing, girl. Ever heard of the word, naive? Seriously…
Humans are neither good or bad. We’re all flawed and very much a work in progress. After 41 years of life experience, I know how common it is for the actions of other fellow humans to be not what we’d hoped for or at least, expected. I also know that I’ve failed to rise to the occasion numerous times, and inevitably - and with no bad intention - will do so again. However, having this knowledge does not make me want to be a walking-talking cynic. I don’t wish to live my life constantly expecting to be let down. I choose to wander around with a glass half-full.
You don’t need me to write about the ugly state of the world today. When somebody mentions 2019, my heart aches. Oh, the good old days! And don’t get me started on 2012… the 90s… and gosh, even my early childhood memories of Thatcher Britain have this retro orange glow about them. I mean, I was very little. Rainbow Brite and the Care Bears were fabulous distractions from unemployment and social upheaval. But these days, well, everybody’s having a bad day, aren’t they? Overworked. Under pressure. Being pulled this way, that way, and back again. Guilt. Shame. Anxiety. More guilt. More and more children are feeling all of the above too, which sucks. They’re being robbed of this precious time to be blissfully ignorant. Because once our eyes are opened, they can’t be shut.
So a little faith goes a long way…
Taking a leap, even a small one, can make a difference…
Recently, I was having a cuppa with another mum while our kids played together. We didn’t know each other very well, but we had a great chat and swapped numbers. Let’s do this again sometime! So when she called a few days later, I thought we were going to organise a run around at the park. But no, she was trying to help a young woman who was stranded on holiday and in deep distress. I’d mentioned that I’d once worked in this destination, in passing, during our chit-chat on that first playdate. Luckily, she’d remembered this and asked for my help. So, I reached out to one of my contacts and explained the situation. They made a phone call. Asked somebody they knew for help. Over the next couple of hours and through the kindness of a few humans who stopped their busy days to answer the phone, step by step, the young woman was helped to safety.
What was incredible about this particular morning was how quickly people were to respond to a cry for help. How few questions were asked. How willing they were to assist. Those who became involved simply knew that it was a young woman and she wasn’t okay. All it took was a few messages, voice notes and actual phone calls, and the ugly situation was flipped on its head.
I don’t know this young woman. Don’t even know her name. I don’t know what she does or where she is now. But I know she was out of her depth that day and humanity did its job well. I was thanked so heartily by my new mum-friend, but I told her the truth; all I did was make a few phone calls. When I thanked those I called, those who helped further down the line, they said the same. Small gestures snowballed into a big result. For the better.
The thing is, it’s everywhere. Human kindness. It doesn’t take danger or dramatics to bring out the best in people. Simply looking another human in the eye and seeing them as real, with a personality and feelings and a life that’s as rough as yours in its own unique way, is enough. We can be so preoccupied with our own stresses and run around like headless chickens, that we don’t pause for a second to see that everybody else is in this dilemma too. We’re all just doing our best.
How many times have you experienced a customer speaking to the staff in a coffee shop like dirt? And, how often have you seen the staff not engage with the customer, performing their duties like a robot? It goes hand in hand. The other day, I ordered a cappuccino. I rarely visit this particular global chain and I double checked that “tall” meant, “the smallest”. The girl behind the counter nodded.
“Oh, I bet you get so tired of people asking that,” I said, laughing.
And she broke into such a lovely smile, laughing along with me. Relief. She wasn’t a robot. And she wasn’t being treated like one. Paying, asking what name to write on the cup and receiving the drink was a pleasant experience, full of warmth. Such small interactions. Now, I want to grab a drink whenever I pass that place, and not because of the product, but because of her.
When we connect human to human, it can put such a bounce in our step. Last weekend, I was on my way to my friend’s 40th birthday and caught my reflection in the dark window of a London Underground tube. I was wearing one of my favourite dresses; a second-hand maxi from the 70s, black and splashed with purple and yellow. At first glance, I liked what I saw. Isn’t it fabulous when you have the excuse to dress up, eh? Then. Oh. No. I twisted further to get a better look at my behind…
A proper bum-poking hole! The price you pay for vintage. I was about to meet my best friends and embark upon a silent disco tour around Covent Garden on the busiest - and hottest - day of the year. I could not shake my booty with an obvious - and ever-expanding - hole! Panic mode kicked in. I was forced to think, think, THINK.
Once out of the tube station, I spotted a hotel. Ping! An idea…but would it work? It depended on who I spoke to and what mood they might be in. So I strolled up to the front desk. Greeted the receptionist with a smile. Kindly asked whether I could buy one of the little sewing kits always found in hotel rooms. The receptionist said, no. I couldn’t buy one. Then, he returned my smile and said, “You can have one for free!” I was so overjoyed; anyone would have thought I’d won the lottery. I told him about my predicament, and he directed me to the ladies’ room, where I happily mended my dress feeling the positive rush of having my faith in humanity restored. A far cry from the fairground experience with my little boy when the Hook-a-Duck stall wouldn’t allow him a turn without a token…and the token booth was closed. I offered cash. I winked. Smiled. Begged. Offered more cash (and a tissue to my crying child). But got a harsh, hard NO.
We only have to glance over our shoulder to see humanity at its most vile. But we also don’t have to look much further to be proud of humanity, either. It’s not about exhausting ourselves by going an extra mile. It’s just stretching a little higher. Human behavior is infectious. It spreads. And depending on what way you sway, sometimes, it can all come together beautifully.
And faith is no longer faith. It’s evidence. There is good in this world.