On Being a Hero

If you’re lucky, there will be opportunities in your life to be a hero.

I was lucky enough to be given such an opportunity recently.

I wanted to taste the feeling. That is why I was purchasing a Coke© from a vending machine. Beside me, another individual was purchasing a bag of Doritos© from an adjacent vending machine.

doritos
A vending machine with Doritos at the top. Photo by M. Fleming.

My Coke© dispensed easily from the machine. I was excited to open happiness and make it real. My enthusiasm, however, was short-lived, for beside me, tragedy struck. The man’s Doritos© had not dispensed from the machine. The bag had fallen from its initial position and was stuck on a ledge.

The man’s face darkened. Oh, the disappointment and anguish. I felt his agony.

I saw my heroic opportunity and pounced. I tapped the glass. I tapped harder. The man’s face brightened a little. I saw a small sense of hope in his eyes. But the cheesy tortilla chips were still stuck. I tapped the glass harder. I stuck my hand in the bottom of the machine. It read, “push,” so I pushed. I pushed harder and harder. Finally, the Doritos© dislodged.

The man’s face lit up. The audience cheered. And the hero smiled.

Nothing feels more heroic than freeing another person’s Doritos©. So be mindful of the little golden things in life.

Bad Fences Make Good Neighbours

On a Friday in May in 2018, 100 km/hr winds hit southern Ontario and Quebec. Trees were toppled, shingles were flown, and power was cut.

During the windstorm, my neighbour climbed onto his roof and it was so windy, it blew his fascia off.

My fascia was okay, but my backyard fence was not as lucky. My old fence panels were down. My deteriorated fence posts were knocked out.

There’s an old saying that says good fences make good neighbours. But I think they’ve got it backwards. I say bad fences make good neighbours, and here’s why.

The collapse of my wobbly fence brought me closer to my neighbours. Gone were trees, shingles, fascia, and fences, but our shared sense of loss and our common desire to repair things created a stronger community. My neighbours helped me mend my broken fence, and I spent more time with my neighbours in one afternoon fixing my fence than I had in a long time. For one afternoon, I experienced something that is rare in our fast-paced, individualized, technological world—a sense of fellowship. It was an amazing feeling.

And it’s why I hope my old fence blows down again soon.

Insights from Narrative Counselling

As a professional involved in student development in a post-secondary setting, I was recently intrigued when a colleague outside my organization told me he had started exploring narrative counselling in his work.

He said individuals are often stuck because they have created unfavourable story lines of how their lives are playing out. They are unaware that there are infinite story lines that can be created for their lives. This caught my attention because one, I like stories, and two, I like talks of infinity.

To begin my exploration of narrative counselling, I read Narrative Counseling in Schools. It was powerful and brief.

Book by John Winslade and Gerald Monk.
Cover of book Narrative Counseling in Schools. Photo by M. Fleming

Everyone can benefit from some of the ideas highlighted in the book.

First, we can realize that everyone has gifts and abilities. When we interact with others, we can approach conversations with a respectful curiosity, look for hidden talents, and help construct appealing story lines.

Second, we can encourage and inspire others to write different scripts for their lives. The authors of the book write:

For most of us, it is not possible to make radical changes in our lives without somebody cheering us on.

I’m excited to help people craft their stories, and I’m excited to cheer them on. I’m also excited that others can help me craft my story. And I hope they cheer me on too.

In the Pit

My friend tells me a story that goes something like this.

There’s a guy trapped in a dark, deep pit covered in the stuff that gets flung at Tim Hortons.

He calls for help.

A guy passes the pit but doesn’t hear him. Another person hears but ignores. Another person tries to help but is unsuccessful.

Finally, another guy jumps in the pit.

“You idiot! What are you doing? Now there’s two of us down here.”

“You’re right,” the guy answers. “But I’ve been here before. And I know the way out.”

I recently returned to the pit.
I didn’t want to go.

I knew it would be hard.
I knew it would be uncomfortable.
I knew it would be painful.

I recently returned to the pit.
I didn’t want to go.
But I did.

I had to.

And I will go back again.
Even though I don’t want to.
Because there are people down there.

I tell them
I’ve been here before.
And I know the way out.

Pushing People’s Buttons

Picture this true story: I’m standing in line at Tim Hortons waiting to order my morning coffee. I notice the woman in front of me has a number of buttons attached to her purse. Being the goof that I am, I start gently pressing each of the buttons on her purse. “Look, I’m pushing your buttons,” I say, hoping to get a laugh.

I do not get a laugh.

Instead, she backs away from me and says something about social phobia. I feel terrible. I had unknowingly upset her by knowingly pushing her buttons.

People like to provoke others. My daughter knows how to push my buttons. My son knows how to push my buttons. Even my dog knows how to push my buttons! I’m sure they do it on purpose. They want to get a reaction. They want to irritate me. They want to make me squirm.

And I’m sure I’ve done the same with others, but my interaction with the woman with the buttoned purse clearly highlighted a truth I had known but forgotten: Don’t push people’s buttons on purpose.