At the moment I’m only working 2/3 days of the week, with no other internships or work placements lined up for a while. So last week I decided to finally get off my backside and do a short placement at the local library as a volunteer, something that I’ve planned on doing for about 6/7 years now. And it was also nice to be able to take a break from the hustle and bustle of London for a few days.
When I got to the library, I was met by a large, friendly team of colleagues; an eclectic mix of different ages and backgrounds who all had unique stories as to why they were presently working in the library. Some were studying part-time for degrees and enjoyed breaking up their week by offering their services with shelving and tidying tasks. Others were retired pensioners who felt good helping out with the local community and giving back, before they went to pick their grandkids up from school. And some were just avid bibliophiles wanting to immerse themselves in a space filled with books, books and more books!
But of all the lovely people I met, one guy left a lasting impression on me. A local resident from the town, in his mid/late 20’s, and the most effortlessly kind and funniest person I’ve met in a long time. During our first encounter, however, he nearly made me jump out of my skin!
Just seconds after I’d walked into the communal staff room to meet my colleagues for the first time, he came up behind me, and in a booming, thunderous tone of voice, asked me whether or not I’d used bunsen burners during my time at primary school… yep…bunsen burners! The rest of the team responded with laughter, shaking their heads and wiping their eyes. But I was taken aback… what kind of way was this to greet the new girl?! Donning my confused face, I was speechless.
And that was when he flashed the first of many of his beaming, innocent smiles in my direction. Suddenly his question no longer seemed random and threatening, but rather light-hearted and genuine. And I realised that, unbeknown to himself, this guy was the lovable comedian of the team. So I joined in with my new colleagues and inhaled the infectious, invisible laughing gas that had seeped into the room and after a minute or so, managed to confirm that I had indeed used bunsen burners on numerous occasions during science lessons. And yet I wasn’t met with the favourable reaction that I was looking for, because his face immediately dropped. He began to seriously worry, concerned about whether I’d have remembered to wear safety goggles at such a young age and if my teacher had known to properly supervise the class, what with so many hazardous open flames in one room! How sweet, I thought. His innocence and naivety were both adorable and endearing…And such was the start of a beautiful friendship 🙂
Over the course of the next few days, he got into the routine of challenging me with difficult tests regarding my knowledge of his absolute favourite Hollywood actress, Goldie Hawn, which sadly, I failed every time… despite having her Wikipedia page up on my phone whenever he was around! He told me countless stories about his grandparents, who he assured me looked young enough to be his siblings… I pinky swear, he said. And repeatedly described all of the trophies and stickers that he had impressively won playing football, before he could even walk! Such was the style of conversation that he was fluent in and I can say with certainty that I’ve never laughed so much in a library before then.
But this guy was not just amazing in my eyes because of his vibrant and unique personality, he was also a role-model and source of inspiration for me, because as you perhaps may have suspected, my colleague was autistic. However, in no way was this a limitation for him. He was successfully holding down multiple jobs, in addition to his volunteering position at the library and was earning a steady income as an independent adult. Yet unlike most people, including myself, he did not complain about anything in his life.
He was content when it was raining and windy outside because it gave him the opportunity to show off his new rain coat and wellie boots to us. He liked that the heating was broken and it was freezing cold inside the library, to the point where you could almost see your breath, because it meant that he could have an extra cup of green tea to keep warm!
Being around such a positive beacon of light, even if it was for a short space of time, really got me thinking… rather than complaining about the slightest things, why not find the silver lining in situations? It requires a colossal amount of effort to be angry and annoyed, but its so easy to just take a deep breath, count your blessings and smile… and yet most of us always instantly react to an inconvenience with negativity. At the end of the day, life is short and precious and we all have things that we forget to be grateful for.
Therefore I’ve decided to make a premature New Year’s Resolution. From now on I’ll try my best to find a positive spin-off in every setback that I encounter. And so next time I’m feeling the urge to complain about something frivolous like the weather, I’ll take a second to step back and rejoice in the fact that I have an excuse to wear my favourite snood and fur-lined coat. And like my colleague, I’ll pour myself an extra big cup of tea and just be thankful 🙂