It is done. After a bit of angst, I have finally given away my first (of 12) Band4Hope copper bracelets. There were a few contenders during the month of January, and slipping into February, but finally I crossed paths with Kate and the deal was done. To get to the story about Kate, I need to wind back time to a sad moment in early January when I was visiting my family in Hobart.
It was early morning, I was asleep at my parents house in Hobart, and my phone rang. It was my sister and her voice had a quiet urgency about it. “Get up Jo, go downstairs and speak to dad. He is really upset.” I was still half asleep and my brain was slowly processing what my sister had said. I went downstairs to find my dad and mum seated beside each other and talking quietly, with tears in my dads eyes. His good friend Tim, our family friend, had been in a light aircraft that was last seen crashing into the sea off the south-east coast of Tasmania. He and the pilot were presumed dead, although the details were a little unclear at this early stage.
Over the next few week there was an amazing gathering of community, who came together around Tim’s three young adult children. Tim had died doing what he loved – as a professional photographer he had covered The Sydney-Hobart Yacht race every year for at least three decades. He and the pilot were flying low and slow to get pictures of the yachts as they passed by Tassie’s beautiful but wild south-east coast. While we may never know exactly what happened, the talk was of a gust of air that hit the plane and ground it to a halt, so that it dropped into the sea. The crew on the closest yacht made a valiant effort to throw a line to the tail of the plane, but it quickly sank to the sea bed 90 meters below.
It took several attempts for emergency services to recover the two men and the plane from the sea bed, meaning a few weeks of waiting before a funeral service could be held. During this time there were so many acts of kindness, compassion and hope, amongst the grief and sadness, that it is hard to single any one person or act out. However, the one I want to mention here involves a man called Bob.
At a time when three young adults were dealing with the shock and grief of losing their dad, they also needed to organise and prepare for his funeral and wake. This required planning, time, effort and money. Enter Bob. Bob was a business colleague and friend who quietly, and with no fuss, offered to pay for the wake. Bob, his family and business partner, decided to take some of the burden from Tim’s children and make a heavy process just a little bit lighter.
Tim’s children, supported by family and friends, created a beautiful tribute to their father’s life, attended by hundreds of people. The funeral was followed by the wake at Tim’s Friday night local – The Lark Distillery. Tim was know for his liking of a good red, and often sported a wine stained smile. People of all ages and stages of Tim’s life gathered to share memories and stories, to drink red wine and whiskey, and appreciate his life. People flew from all over Australia to be there, including Bob. This quiet act of kindness and generosity stood out as a beacon of hope, and also a reminder to spend time with our loved ones because you never know when they will be gone.
This brings me to today – sitting at Melbourne airport waiting for another flight to Hobart, for a happier occasion this time. It’s my father’s birthday. After the loss of his good friend Tim, I wanted to make sure I spent more time with my dad and the rest of my family. After a busy work week I had booked an afternoon flight to get me to Hobart. I made it to the airport on time and was waiting for my flight when my phone rang. I answered it and on the other end was a distressed parent of a client. We spent 30 minutes chatting, although clearly I thought it was shorter than that, because when I got off the phone and looked up at the flight departure screen it was flashing “Last Call”. A three minute sprint to the gate was to no avail, the flight was closed, and I had missed it.
I went to the “Help Desk”, which was ironic, because what I got was not a lot of help. I got disinterested, judgemental and bad advice. I was told I would have to buy a new ticket and to book it online myself. I was pretty upset, mostly with myself, and flustered, so my attempts to book a very expensive new ticket online did not go well. Eventually, feeling pretty dejected I walked over to what was labelled the “Jetstar Service Desk”, rather than the “Help Desk”, and here I actually got some help. I was served by a lady called Kate, who greeted me with a genuine smile and proceeded with kindness and compassion. There was not an ounce of visible judgement about my “missed flight”. She also organised a flight transfer for a fee much smaller than the “new ticket” I had earlier been told I would have to buy.
What had started as pleasurable anticipation, looking forward to time with my family, had turned to disappointment and frustration, made worse by another person’s incompetence and lack of care. Kate changed that. I still had to wait four hours for the next flight, but my mood was lifted because someone had listened with non-judgement and kindness, had given me some help and hope.
I called my dad to tell him I would be late and ranted a bit about the terrible service I had originally got and how I felt like I should make a formal complaint about it. My dad listened, then nudged me in the direction of Kate. He said, wouldn’t it be more helpful to make a non-complaint about Kate? I stopped, took a breathe, said thanks, and hung up. I walked back out through security to the Jetstar Service Desk. Kate was still there with some colleagues. I took off my Band4Hope and said “This is for you Kate, thank you”. I explained the significance, that the band was to be passed on to people who inspired hope through acts of kindness. She gave me a lovely, genuine hug, and promised to register the band, wear it, and pass it on.
Acts of hope came in all sizes – the bigger acts like paying for a friend’s wake, to the smaller acts of attention, compassion and kindness in an everyday transaction. Every act has the power to not only lift our mood, but to change our behaviour, and create a ripple of hope throughout the community. What have you done today to spread a little hope in the world?
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This blog is part of a 2015 series called Do4Hope. It shares wellbeing science and stories through an action based project called Do4Hope. The challenge is to spot acts of kindness, hope and inspiration and to choose one person every month to pass on a Band4Hope copper bracelet. They then become a hope ambassador and are encouraged to do the same – creating a ripple of hope, kindness and inspiration. Profits from the bands supports the community that makes them in Africa, as well as local and global charities.