Friday, 5 March 2010
Doing things with Love
A couple of years back I did a speech in a conference in a very fine stately sort of building surrounded by tendered gardens in a hall for 500 people. It was titled “¿Hacemos las cosas con Amor?” (Do we do things with Love?). I was quite pleased with how well I was coping in front of the audience of
30, in spite of the echo, and at the end of the forty minute speech I had a standing ovation from about 18 of them. The others didn’t stand because they were in a balancing act trying to clap and not let their walking sticks fall over.
But even though the audience wasn’t so grand in numbers, nor young in age, I was proud of my speech, not only for the fact that they seemed to understand my accent, but for the content. It basically went: if we all do things with love, simple day to day things, then we create more meaningful relationships with ourselves, others and the world.
We’ve all seen people go onto the street wired for an argument. I’ve done it. I’m on my bike one day and a car looks like they are going to swerve into the bike lane…so I slow down and give them space. Another day, the same situation and I angrily keep my ground, let them nearly get me and with that excuse knock all uppity on their window. They say “Perdona! I didn’t see you” and I launch into a speech about being having to be more aware on the streets, that cyclists have no protection, I hint at possible death etc etc etc. I jump off my bike and get right onto my high horse.
But what about if we do it the other way around? If we go onto the street “wired” to help, to be nice, to smile at the least opportunity? If you try it, it makes you feel like Amelie. Or Mary Poppins. It depends on the weather forecast (it’s the umbrella thing).
So this weekend we had some bad news. On Friday men came knocking on the door and asked about the leak. What leak? The leak downstairs they say is drip drip dripping into the vacated bank downstairs.
Apparently it had been like that for a month. I’m used to banks insipiently being a money drain, but not like this. So we spent the weekend (workers respect the Sabbath here with a holiness…) without water. I didn’t realise how often I wash my hands, or turn on taps. I hadn’t realised how much I take for granted something so elementary such as water. With it on again, it really makes me appreciate not just unsticky fingers but the simple fact of water, clean good water. On tap.
I found the whole affair somewhat threatening. A mishap within my own castle. I can only just accept uncontrollable negative things outside, but inside… So on Monday, Señor Camilla’s brother-in-law, the plumber, came along. Just to see his face was a relief. He had such a clear countenance that I instantly felt that I could trust this man which in a world of lampisterias (Spanish plumbers) is a relief in itself. You can be put over a drippy barrel.
And I was right, he and his trusty assistant found the leak. It was under the corner of the bath. Relieved, we were able to flush.
So today he came and did the final touches, which were putting the spare tiles back into place. We got out the tiles and Sñr Comilla´s brother-in-law got to work.
They say it’s all in the timing and this morning I awoke with a particularly bad case of the trots (diarrhoea). Sñr Comilla´s brother-in-law was really lovely about it all. A couple of times I found myself doubling over a bit hoping that he could clean the rocky lumps from under the door to be able to close it before my bottom turned into Mount Etna and erupted. Meanwhile Enric and him are having a right manly chin wag, about the size of tiles, how tiles aren’t the same these days, about their different tools etc. Sñr Comilla´s brother-in-law was particularly touched by the offer of a coffee, which he sipped while I was groaned in the toilet.
Later Enric was at my bedside with a home remedy from our friendly lampisteria-cum-doctor: a small glass of coca-cola does the trick. He finished his work, by which time he had invited Enric and I to his house in a little village,
Mont Blanc, the next time we were up. Really he was so very caring, so very open, so very warm hearted…
Which was a good job, because a good job he did not.
Tonight inspecting his work, I said to Enric, “the tiles are jutting out a bit”. He said “And that was the third attempt, he broke two before that”. We had a couple of loose tiles in the hall way that we constantly crunched over from the table to the kitchen, and now they are nice and firm, one in a few more pieces than previously and the other slight rised. To put it blunt, Mr Camilla’s brother-in-law is a bit of a cack hand.
But do you know, I am more than pleased to pay up for the signed three hours, that we reckon a skilled tiler could have done in half of the time. Because as I sit on the toilet, now in a controlled fashion, I look with a warm feeling, at the jutting out tile. It reminds me: it is not what you do, but how you do it.
I´ve got on instantly with that jutting out tile, it makes me think of Mr Camilla’s brother-in-law and wonder what his house is like in that little village, him sat out back with his twenty by twenty tiling. I like thinking of him doing his best, with his good heart, really trying. It´s like our house has a bit more character. But if a horrible man had done it in a bad mood, I wouldn’t react in the same way, at all. I’d get all farty about it while sat on the white telephone.
You see, it doesn’t matter what we do, even if we are just an English teacher, getting grammar mixed up while trying to untangle phrasal verbs in front of students, or if we are a high flyer dealing with lots of money, or a person who cleans the stairwell in buildings…it doesn’t matter what we do, but how we do it.
It’s not so important the result of our labour, but how we laboured. And really, if we do things with love, we don’t only end up enjoying what we do and loving that others appreciate it, but we begin to love ourselves. Our worlds change.
No sorry that’s wrong.
Just like the Little Prince who tames the fox who tells him "Here´s my secret, it couldn´t be simpler: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."
And so a big thank you to Señor Comilla’s brother-in-law for the unwobbly reminder that doing things with love makes all the difference because at the end of the day it is not what we do, but who we are, that counts.