Warning: I’m going to rant…nicely!
I visited a very dear friend of mine who is now 78yo in the UK prior to going to Egypt last month. He lives alone in a small 2 room apartment. All his favourite personal belongings surround him in an attempt to keep his memories intact. I am one of very few people he still remembers. I love John very much – I met him at a coaching conference over a decade ago and then ended up coaching him. Fancy that! Me coaching the founding father of the coaching industry – the creator of the GROW model which many people around the world continue to adopt today. It’s been an absolute privilege getting to know him and being able to genuinely call him friend.
Are we really too busy?
What struck me was this man was once a revered and much sought-after expert in his fields (he was also a racing car champion). He would fly around the world to deliver speeches and workshops and was very much in demand. These days, he is attended to a few times a week, by a loving family friend who has become his carer, and an occasional visit by a family member. That’s it. He is alone. He is lonely. I wondered: where are his friends and colleagues now? Has his usefulness expired? Is he no longer relevant? I feel angry and sad about this – to see and feel his loneliness and desperation for genuine connection – a basic human need. Why don’t people care for one another any more? It seems we’ve become so ‘busy’ that the people who helped form, shape and support us to become who we are today are just brushed aside and seemingly forgotten! It’s just not good enough!
From the moment I arrived, he would often hold me by the shoulders and say: ‘I can’t believe you came all the way to England just to see me!’ I would respond with: ‘of course I did. I love you John.’ He would burst into tears and I would give him a big reassuring hug and then we’d talk for hours about anything and everything. I loved this special time with him. We filled our days with long walks along the neighbouring countryside, picking up rubbish. We would head out in many layers (it was freezing cold – it even snowed one afternoon!) with bags and rubbish pickers in hand. Off we’d charge and clean up the streets of London. It gave him (and I) tremendous joy to make a small difference to the place. I must admit – I do this here in Brisbane on my morning walks (minus the sophisticated equipment ;) I must go buy one of those things!)
I’m so pleased I made the effort to have that quality time with John – we share a deeply caring and loving connection. He would repeatedly narrate how happy he felt sharing time and walking with me because he felt ‘safe’.
We would sit and listen to his favourite Acker Bilk CD and I’d sing along to my favourite song The Rose which would make us both cry. We silently knew it would be the last time we physically see eachother and spend time together. This made the experience even more special for me. I was mindfully fully present and realized that is the greatest gift we can give anyone – our full attention. No other physical gift matters in the end. It’s how we attend to one another and how we make other people feel about themselves that will leave a lasting impression.
We would cry, laugh, talk for hours and simply feel the loving ‘safe’ connection between us.
We talked about God, about love, about impossible things happening when we get intentional and take small steps that make a difference and feel good, and about how important it is to let go of timing and expectations.
I’m so glad I went to visit and share quality time with John. I know it will be the last time I see him, but the felt sense of our connection will be with me forever.
Do you have times when you’d just like a hug, or to know someone cares for you? I do. Who can you reach out to today to remind them of your care and concern? Who can you let know how much they mean to you, or simply check in and say you are thinking of them? We quench our own need for connection when we reach out to others and give them what we may want/need ourselves. It’s a win-win. Go ahead – pick up your phone or better still, take a visit and surprise someone with the gift of YOU! Sending big love and hugs your way.