At a formal dinner, people from all backgrounds are present: those who like to strut their stuff, flashing their jewellery and clothes. Those who would like to disappear in the folds of the tablecloth because they really don’t feel comfortable, or those who don’t really take any notice of what’s going on and just enjoy themselves and chat away, totally oblivious to everything around them.
The host, a charismatic kindly man observes all the different guests. One guest who is particularly uncomfortable in this opulent setting takes the finger bowl and lifts it to his lips. Another person in a group of show-off (look-at-me) types watches the man with a sneer. The host takes his own finger bowl and proposes a toast to the gathering.
The people in the show-off (or vain) group are forced to copy their host, even though they are horrified by the breach of etiquette. The others just laugh and clink bowls, which makes the atmosphere feel more relaxed.
The host had nothing to gain from his friendly gesture, apart from the satisfaction of having stopped one of his guests being humiliated.
What about you? How have you got someone out of tricky situation with flair?
The scene takes place in my friend’s shop in the provinces. It’s mid-August, and she’s speaking on the phone to a woman whose fridge won’t close properly while gesturing to a customer that she won’t be a minute.
She feels sorry for the woman on the other end of the phone who has a broken fridge door in 40°C heat, and offers to send a technician in two days’ time between previously booked appointments in the same neighbouring village.
When she hangs up, the man in the shop – a pensioner who is a regular customer – apologises for having eavesdropped on the conversation and offers to go and see the woman in question as he is going shopping in the village that same afternoon. He says he will take his toolbox with him and make himself useful – free of charge.
My friend calls the woman back – and offers her the services of the kind pensioner!
My friend subsequently found out that the unofficial repairman went to the woman’s house that day at 2 o’clock– she was also a pensioner – and she was so taken by the man’s initiative that she’d gone and signed up with a charity to offer her dressmaking services.
Making yourself useful, letting people know about it and listening to others are some of the many things I tend to forget when I’m glued to my smartphone.
This anecdote reminds me that life isn’t just a job description, but an infinite possibility of being and feeling useful.
What about you? How can you be useful – before or after retirement?
“When I was doing my military service,” an ex-Chasseur Alpin told me, “one person in our group always took too long to change.
We had to change several times a day from fatigues into sportswear into full dress uniform.
Every time we were late, we had to do 10 press-ups at every assembly for 2 weeks.
We quickly realised that his problem was ours too and that in fact this was the reasoning behind the collective punishment.
We therefore helped our comrade to get dressed in time. This brought the group closer together and we longer had to do press-ups!”
People say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But who says that the group can’t strengthen it?
Who do you need to help to “change quicker” in your group to make the group as a whole successful?
I travel a lot. I enjoy eating. I love trying out local food. And I love it when people recommend food and places to eat.
Clutching a precious address, I make my way to a restaurant, where I order the suggested dishes without even thinking about it. I trust the recommendation.
I’m rarely disappointed and often delighted.
Many of us look at reviews on Trip Advisor, recommendations in the Michelin and Gault & Millau Guides or other critics. Why? Because it’s one less decision to take, and a way to avoid having to trawl through piles of information.
Tools that help us make decisions are a blessing in our hectic 24/7 lives.
What about you? What decision-making tools are a blessing for you?
A Facebook post catches my eye. Fabrice is describing his new way of going for forest walks with his children. He’s had enough of feeling annoyed about packaging, plastic bottles and bits of paper littering the forest so he decides that, instead of grumbling and complaining about other people, he will take action.
A quick Internet search yields two litter grabbers. Now the new game he plays with his children is walking in the forest and picking up everything they find on the trails and in the undergrowth. The result? They’ve come home with 200 L of rubbish and the satisfaction of having achieved something.
Fabrice’s post has 7 shares and 20 comments, and has served as the launch pad for his own wave of change. He has used it to tell people where to find litter grabbers and organise meet ups for rubbish walks.
Fed up to the back teeth of others not taking any action? Well, what kind of fun activity can you do at your level?