I cry at everything. OK not everything. I don't cry at the things I probably SHOULD well up about. I don't cry about having no money, or global disasters or things on the news. I cry when good things happen. I cry when someone wins $50,000 on Millionaire Hot Seat. I cry when Simon Cowell presses the golden buzzer on Britain's Got Talent. Just yesterday I bawled my eyes out at an abandoned puppy who got rescued on Facebook. And I cry when people are kind.
At the end of last week I was feeling pretty flipping awful. All this horrible mail kept arriving! Ms J Gower your Warrant of Fitness is due. Ms J Gower your car registration is about to expire. Ms J Gower your AA membership is due for renewal. Your dogs are due for their annual vaccinations. Ms J Gower you owe us $312 on 2/6/15. Whilst I wished they'd all just go away at least I could stick my head in the sand about some of them. I mean I don't go anywhere anyway so it didn't really matter too much about my car; I could afford a little leeway there at least. What was preying on my mind most was Ali. The past three weekends in a row we had ended up at the doctor's emergency clinic with rugby injuries - once with concussion and twice with a dislocated shoulder. Three after-hours appointments were costly enough but there were also additional appointments during the week, two trips to get x-rays, talk of ultrasound and physio and chemist prescriptions. All up Ali's shoulder ended up dislocating four times in the space of a week and the weekend culminated in a trip to hospital, followed by another trip to the doctor the next day to get referred to an orthopaedic surgeon.
Poor Ali. Obviously it wasn't his fault! The poor kid was in a lot of pain, he could barely do anything and his whole life was basically on hold until he had recovered from surgery - and who knew when that would be? I tried not to let him see how much the cost of everything was getting to me but every time I had to fill up the car with petrol for yet another trip I just felt as though I was being dragged further and further down. We couldn't afford to have this happen. The orthopaedic surgeon we had been referred to was almost two hours away, how were we going to afford the travel? Not to mention I still had four doctor's appointments to pay for. Every time we had gone I had had to lie through my teeth in front of a waiting room of people that I'd forgotten my Eftpos card or some other lame excuse. But worst of all I was doing a crap job of hiding how stressed out I was and on top of everything else Ali was dealing with, he also had his mother making him feel guilty about being a big old inconvenience!
The thing was, I didn't know what to do any more. I couldn't see how the hell I was going to pay these bills. Sunday morning dawned and I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel. I got out of bed, switched on my phone and... my phone. My brand new phone which Spark had given me a couple of months ago to woo me back after changing both my mobile and landline provider to someone else after being a loyal customer of 23 years. I had given my old phone to Ali but I didn't need a phone like this! You know how you automatically judge someone who says they have no money yet still drinks like a fish and smokes like a train? As far as I was concerned I was no better. There I was being all woe is me, my life's so hard, I'm broke as a church mouse yet I was walking around with a gold iPhone 6 in my pocket! What was stopping me from selling it? Nothing! Ten minutes later I had sold it on Facebook for hundreds in cash plus a perfectly good and adequate older model phone. That was all it took and all of a sudden I could cope again. The next morning I paid off my $312 bill, strode merrily into the doctor's and paid for the four outstanding consultations, paid some more off the vet bill and still had enough left to put petrol in the car and pay for a long-awaited haircut for Ali. My God did it feel good.
I also wanted to get Ali a little present to say sorry for being a grumpy arse so I went into one of the local shops to get him a $3.50 pack of incense sticks. He absolutely loves the stuff, has done since he was little! As I handed over the money the girl behind the counter saw my new/old phone in my hand and said, 'I bet that phone feels a lot different to your other one doesn't it?' Ah, she had obviously seen my Facebook ad on Buy, Sell, Swap. Before I could say another word she flashed me the most beautiful warm smile and said 'Don't worry, I totally understand. Last year I had to sell my Samsung Galaxy so I could buy firewood. I've been there'. And I could tell from her face she had. I was so touched I felt like bursting into tears right there on the spot. Someone got it. They really got it.
I've had a song which keeps popping into my head for the longest time. It's called 'Hands' by Jewel and the words say 'in the end, only kindess matters'. Maybe I'm just getting old but that's pretty much how I look at things these days. As long as I'm kind, as long as I keep striving to be a good person, as long as I know I'm doing a good job, well I'm happy. And if you're really lucky, sometimes kindness comes back to you, just like it has to me this week.
Four and a half years ago I had just moved to Whangamata. After years of being in a town where everyone knew everybody else I was enjoying the relative anonymity. Then one Sunday afternoon my phone rang. It was one of the local teachers, asking if he could pop round and buy a copy of the $21 Challenge book. 'Sure, no problem!' I said. Half an hour later we were chatting over the gate. He told me he was going through a really tough time financially and hoped my book could help him. He had a girlfriend who he adored and wanted to be able to make nice meals for her and who knew, if this challenge worked and he was really lucky, perhaps he could even save enough to take her out for dinner. I knew it had taken a lot of courage for him to come and see me and on hearing his story there was no way I was going to take any money from him! I handed him a copy of the book and said the only payment I needed was for him to tell other people about it if he thought it was any good.
Fast forward a few years and I still have one son at the local school. Like most schools they have uniforms and one of our school's regulations is that they have to wear plain black shoes. Unfortunately Ali's fell apart recently and were beyond repair. Unable to afford new ones he resorted to wearing another pair but of course every time a teacher saw them he got in trouble. 'Mum, can you please write me a note about my shoes and explain we can't get any right now so they leave me alone?' he asked a few days ago in frustration. I duly did so and promptly forgot about it. Until yesterday when Ali came home from school and pointedly sat down in front of me, waiting to see if I noticed anything. He was wearing a brand new pair of school shoes. A certain teacher had given them to him. And I cried like a big girl's blouse again.
I'm still absolutely gobsmacked at the kindness of this wonderful man. I have no idea whether the $21 Challenge helped him or if he managed to woo his girlfriend with the recipes in it but they did go on to get married and have a baby on the way so he must have done something right!