Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Post: Small Favors December 1, 2011

Filed under: Family and Friends,Guest Bloggers — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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By Jill B.

After a particular tedious day looking at spreadsheets and attending a longer-than-expected internal meeting, I was having a much-needed night in, staring mindlessly at the TV with a glass of wine in my hand (please don’t judge me!).

I was expecting to watch some complete nonsense (that’s normally what happens when I actively sit down to watch TV) but I happened upon a gem that left me with a message I didn’t expect.

It was a property programme following the trials and tribulations of a couple in the south of England converting a charming, stone-built former industrial building into a family home.  It had no roof, the walls were non-existent in places, there was an open mine shaft nearby and the land was overgrown with fifty years of weeds.

The couple were challenged with a limited budget of only £100,000 (about $160,000) when any sane person would have said that a more realistic figure of £250,000 was needed to get the job done.

But this was the bit I really liked.  The man was a stonemason with 25 years experience in the building trade and lots of great contacts.  He was a pragmatic guy who’d been a kind-hearted friend to people over the years and had shared his skills and done a good deed where people couldn’t pay the going-rate.

Good-naturedly everyone generously returned his acts of kindness, ten-fold in many cases.  Pointing the stonework, a few hours plumbing or electrical work, a day or two decorating, supplying some hardwood for the window and door frames; everyone did a little bit of whatever they could to help out.  It took a little longer than originally anticipated but the home is now complete.

It seems indeed that a generous heart renews humanity*.

This was a generous heart on a grander scale than perhaps we’re capable of every day, but there are simpler ways to share.  There have been stories on the UK news in the last few years about how people in rural communities are starting to barter their wares on a more formal and organised basis.  But I guess we all recognise the opportunities we have to “return the favour” or perform an act of kindness.

My neighbour recently cut the hedge that sits between our gardens and he left me a small bag of potatoes that he’d grown in his garden.  A great but simple kindness that I know I’ll be repaying sometime over the winter when the driveway needs clearing of snow or he wants a pint of milk from the shop.

But perhaps we should be doing these things more often for our “neighbours” and in these financially tough times doesn’t it make all our lives much easier and much richer when we do?


*thanks to Buddha


Jill B. lives in Scotland, where her neighbors are few but appreciated.


3 Responses to “Guest Post: Small Favors”

  1. Kate B Says:

    On our end of the street, we have one single woman, several working wives and quite a few men who work odd hours due to the nature of their jobs – cops, firemen, etc – and then there’s Loser Joe. When it snows, the guys who work the odd hours, myself and the adult children of one of the other families all pitch in to make sure everybody’s sidewalks and driveways are cleared of snow. But, we skip Loser Joe. See, since Loser Joe and his wife moved into the neighborhood, they have treated the rest of us with a complete lack of respect and consideration. But stil, their first winter, my husband cleared their sidewalk for them during a really big snowstorm, because they don’t have a snowblower and it was the neighborly thing to do. Not only did they not say thank you, that’s the only clearing of their sidewalk that got done. They did nothing to help themselves and certainly nothing to help others. Next winter, another of the guys in the neighborhood cleared their sidewalk during a big storm. Again not even a simple thank you. On top of that, they piled their snow in the street, making passage difficult and sometimes impossible. So, the people who appreciate help, the people who help each other – well they’ll all continue to help each other, but treat your neighbors like crap? Well, we won’t crap back on you, but don’t expect much beyond that.

  2. CiCi Says:

    What a beautiful and encouraging story about how great we can be! Acts of kindness certainly can pull people together and when it does, amazing things can happen.

  3. mina Says:

    What helped me enormously while having to adapt to living single again (after expecting to live a family life) was moving into a house which is populated nearly exclusively by other singles. Some of us are a bit whacky but there is a great spirit of neighbourhood and it’s really a relief to know that someone can help me with all the little things that suddenly become complicated when you live alone (as in, i’m going on holiday, who is going to water the plants?). The whackiest of them all is the “artist” living in the basement (he really is mentally ill) who restored an old table i got from friends for me and now i have a lovely table in my kitchen – and he got an interesting little job to do. The house is old and you can hear a lot of noise from the neighbours; the girl living upstairs from me wrote me a really nice card when she heard me cry one night….
    Though i can’t really relate to the story of this couple: I whish i had 100’000 pounds!!!

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