Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Good in the World: A Big Thank You

Earlier this week I met a friend to catch up on the past few weeks at a local pub. While there, I suddenly realised my handbag had been stolen. Not the nicest thing to happen. But this is not a post about the awful experience of having your possessions stolen!

First, I was surprised at how calm I was - no panic, not even anger. This equanamity is something relatively new, as for most of my life I have been a bundle of nerves concealed under a calm facade maintained only with iron discipline. In fact, most of my loved ones recognise the signs when the facade cracks under proverbial "the straw that broke the camel's back" and either fury or desperate sorrow comes pouring forth. In fact, my family and friends are really great at comforting me in those moments of absolute distress, but increasingly, I realise that they are also really good at identifying the moment when my iron control will snap.

Yet this time, there was nothing. I felt calm as my friend and I reported the crime, cancelled bank cards, organised the locks in my home to be replaced, called my family, and made my way home. Strangely enough, even though I had strange and unsettling dreams, I even slept that night.

This equanimity first reared its head some six weeks ago, in the midst of an emotional crisis. I fully expected to fall apart even then, yet after the initial release of tears, there was a strange peace. My brother called it "sthirta" - a Hindi word that translates as a combination of balance, groundedness, lack of movement, serenity even. I am not sure where or how I have acquired this but frankly, after a lifetime of being hyper-sensitive combined with keeping myself under rigid self-control, it feels strangely liberating and easy. For that alone, I am thankful.

But more importantly, the stolen handbag has made me remember something more important: that there are far more wonderful people in the world than awful ones (even though you won't notice that if you read the news or even fiction).

So for the one loser who stole my handbag, here is a list of super people who helped me cope:

1. My friend who gave me his phone to make the calls, walked me around the area to see if we could find a trace (often these are quick thefts only for money), found an internet cafe so I could find my family's phone numbers, and then accompanied me home and kept me company till I got most things sorted. He also gave me running cash while my bank stuff got sorted out, and went for another seach trip the next day to see if something would turn up. 2009 has definitely been the year of realising just how super my friends are!

2. The waitress in the pub who was more upset than me about the theft and really kind and gentle.

3. The street cleaner who promised to keep an eye out for anything odd and offered kind words.

4. The policewoman who took the initial report on the phone and then the various people who man the Metropolitan Police's telephone lines who have since taken bits and pieces of information I keep remembering since then.

5. My neighbour who not only reassured me that he would let me in the front door, but also organised the locksmith, so I got home and could actually enter my flat without a second's delay, or indeed having to watch the locksmith at work.

6. The locksmith who was not only efficient but also extremely kind and comforting. He told me stories of his own car (someone took off all the wheels and left it on milk crates), and made me laugh with strange tales of his life as a locksmith.

7. The policewoman who called the next morning having gone through the papers to find my home number (I couldn't remember it initially and obviously my mobile had also been stolen) so she could follow up on the initial report, showing a diligence that doesn't often make it to the newspapers. She also spent a lot of time taking down details and was one of the nicest people I have ever dealt with in any "service" capacity.

8. The kind soul who found my staff ID and keys on the street the next morning and turned it in to my office reception.

9. The really kind man who found my wallet thrown on the street, found my business card, and emailed me so I could collect it. The wallet has sentimental value: its a near replica by the same brand of the first "designer" one I bought for myself. That first wallet was purchased in Mexico, in 1991, after six months of saving up, as proof that I was a self-sufficient adult. I used it till it fell apart a couple of years ago. This year my brother found a nearly identical version of it and gave it to me for my birthday. So a lot of emotional investment had gone into it and it was the first thing I was sad about.

Antony, thank you so much for finding it and making sure I got it back.

10. The tall man with tattoos and ponytail near Highbury Place who helped me look through hedges and bushes the next day, as I thought I would take a chance and try finding more stuff, given that bits and pieces had turned up in the area.

11. The many, many people who took a few minutes of their own lives to help me look over hedges, in bins, and along the streets.

12. The security staff at work who not only promptly informed me that my keys and ID had been returned but also were kind and generous with their sympathy.

13. My swim coach who reminded me that thiefs are professionals and there was little I could have done to stop it. Also that swimming would clear my head and stop me worrying. And thank you for not killing me by recognising that I was too frazzled to maintain balance, but with enough pent up energy to do laps.

14. The cop on Upper Street who reminded me to be glad because noone had been hurt and that things/documents can be replaced.

I realise that in normal scheme of things, many of these people were simply doing their jobs. But they could have been grumpy or abrupt or unkind and gotten their job done. For example, so the locksmith could have just replaced the locks without trying to make me feel better; the police could have been just as effective without the unfailing patience and kindness. But they made that extra effort.

Even more people acted out of the kindness of their hearts to help a stranger recover her belongings, or to try to comfort and aid someone.

Thats over a dozen wonderful human beings for that one lousy thief! I could be angry and upset, but I think it makes more sense to be grateful for all that is good in humanity, and for the fact that it obviously supersedes the bad in sheer numbers.

Thank you - universe - for this timely reminder!