The idea of this ‘Inspire’ page is to present, to you, inspirational people that have somehow made an impact upon my life. Be it family members, friends, colleagues or public figures; I want to share with you why these people have filled me with inspiration, in the hope you can also find your own within these words. Additionally, through ‘Inspire’ I want to encourage those people in my life to share their inspirational story with you, in their own words. Therefore, this blog page will be a mixture of articles written by myself about those who have touched my life, as well as articles written by guest bloggers who I believe have something of value to share with you.
As I drove to work this morning, I decided that my first ‘Inspire’ blog post would be about J.K. Rowling: an incredible woman and writer that has deeply inspired me over the years. However, tonight, as I walked out of the opticians boasting a grin from ear-to-ear, I knew I had changed my mind.
Let me just say – the message I intend to convey through this ‘Inspire’ page is that anyone can be your inspirational force. Anyone can encourage you to be kinder, to be better, or to do something different. It doesn’t need to be someone famous, it doesn’t even need to be your dearest friend – it could be a mere passing conversation from a stranger that simply sparked something inside of you. As usual, perfectly timed, this happened to me tonight and I want to share this story with you.
I have been having headaches for quite a few weeks now and, after waiting and waiting until I could afford new glasses, I decided I could no longer delay and booked an opticians appointment. Tonight, after I was given my new prescription, I sat down with the sales assistant – who turned out to be a wonderful man named Baz. This is how the story started.
“Take time to laugh, to talk, to hug, and to cry. These are the human relief valves.” Richelle E. Goodrich
As I sat down, Baz – a 60+ year old man with a kind and learned face – smiled as he read my address. “You’re a long way from home” he grinned as he took a seat. “What you doing here?” The address I had provided was in Wales and as I was based in North England for work, he couldn’t understand why I had come so far for a new pair of glasses. So, we started to chat about Wales.
The wonderful thing about Baz was that, from the start, he had an incredibly relaxing aura. You felt you were sitting with a friend as he spoke, his voice lacking any level of pretence that you’d naturally expect in customer service. He was genuinely a nice guy and I felt immediately comfortable. I sat patiently as he talked to me about when he lived in Wales back in the 1980s, watching him as he lost his thoughts in memories. After a few moments, he recalled the name of his old girlfriend – Vicky, who lived in Mumbles. He told me that they were very happy back then and were even engaged, however, when he was relocated to Birmingham, they separated as she wasn’t interested in leaving Wales. He informed me she was Vicky Cooper now but even after all these years, you could hear a tinge of sadness in his voice.
As we carried on chatting, I allowed him to enjoy the moments of reminiscing. I spoke to him briefly about my lenses and asked if I could change my lenses without changing my frames – I was hoping it would be cheaper and far more convenient to sort. He sat and thought for a while then mentioned he had a friend who was a manufacturer who could change the lenses for me while I waited, all for just £20. A major saving on the £90 it would have cost me at that opticians. He wrote down the name and number and explained what I should say. It was a friend of his, he explained; he would call him tonight and let him know.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop
I sat there smiling. I was so overwhelmed by his kindness – he didn’t need to do that. It was his job to take my business, no matter of the cost to me. I sat there and thanked him profusely; I felt so grateful. As I smiled, he explained his story to me and it was during those moments I realised – everyone you meet has something to teach you. Everyone you meet can bring something of value to your life, in some way; if only you’re open to it.
So as he chatted, I leaned forward and listened.
Baz explained how last August he had suffered from a heart attack and had briefly died. After being resuscitated, he had found a new gratitude for life – but this hadn’t been his immediate reaction. Baz explained: “When you’re sitting on that ward with 10 other men, it doesn’t matter where they come from. It doesn’t matter whether they’re black, white or brown – they become your brothers. You want them to survive and you start to care. I grew close to one man next to me, however, one night he became sick and died. I sat there staring towards the bed, at the closed curtains and then watched as they eventually took his bed away.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Plato
“I became very depressed. I thought about death a lot. I thought about him dying and I thought about my death. When my family would visit, I was very miserable and they would end up leaving depressed. One day, my mother visited. She stood at the end of my bed and pointed her finger in my face. She said ‘What’s wrong with you. Stop being so miserable’. ‘I’m going to die’ he had told her glumly, ‘I’m going to die, mum’.
“At this point, she looked at me and said ‘yes, you are going to die. You’re going to die. I’m going to die. Everyone is going to die. At some point. We are all on a bus and everyone has a bus stop where they due to get off. At some point, it will be your time to get off. But this is not your bus stop – so get back on the bus’. And with that she stormed off.”
I sat there watching him recall this story, realising the depth of this conversation we were having between two complete strangers, sitting here on a Monday evening in the opticians. As his mind wandered back to the memory, he continued to explain how it was that moment where everything changed for him.
“I sat there for hours after mum left thinking about what she said. I realised she was right. I just want to be around long enough to make it to my daughter’s wedding. I am Hindu – so if god takes me before that, I will accept it – but if I can make it to my daughter’s wedding, I will be content. I told my daughter that we must always treat people with kindness and it costs nothing to make someone smile. I have made you smile today and that’s cost me absolutely nothing. All I have to say to those hurting others, driving into them and killing people – why? Everyone has a bus stop – god has a bus stop planned for everyone. Let him decide when it’s time to get off. You don’t need to make that choice.”
I sat there watching him talk me through his thoughts and felt such an overwhelming need to share his story. I spent maybe 20 minutes with this man, I’m not sure exactly, but during this time he shared with me some profound lessons and experiences that I may never live through myself. He taught me about the feeling of brotherhood on hospital wards, he shared his realisations about his mortality, he revealed his desperation to make it to his daughters’ wedding and most importantly; he reminded me that making someone smile doesn’t cost a thing.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain
Tonight, sitting there listening to this man speak, reminded me exactly why I write. I wanted to sit with this man for hours and gather up all the life lessons that he had gained over the years. I wanted to hear about his regrets, I wanted to enjoy his happiest moments. This man who did not owe me anything, shared with me the greatest events in his life – just because.
He found me a discount voucher online to reduce the cost of my appointment, he referred me to a friend that would save me a lot of time and money – but most of all, he sat with me – human to human – and just chatted about life.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Princess Diana
That chat, those twenty minutes of my life that were perfectly spent – were the most important minutes of my day. Never underestimate anyone and the story they have to tell. More importantly, allow someone to tell you their story every so often; there have been many people who have gone before us and many people with stories to tell that would rock your world.
Listen. Learn. Share.
You can find inspiration in everyone if you just look. So, next time you meet someone like Baz, a friendly (and safe) person who just wants to share their story with you – have a chat, share a story – you never know what words they may gift to you.
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
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