Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Give and Let Give

Human nature doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. One of the most important attributes that I’ve found upon moving to both New York and New Zealand is the kindness of relative strangers- particularly in times of distress.


New Yorkers have a reputation for being a fast-walking, tough-talking, competitive breed but upon arrival I found a culture dying to feel a connection. One can’t stand on the street or stare at a subway map for five minutes without someone approaching with an offer to help. Complete strangers will start a conversation in an elevator or subway and, particularly while working in restaurants, patrons were dying to ask about your life story. Work acquaintances and fast friends were always willing to go above and beyond to help find a new job, place to live, or promote an aspiring artist’s show. In New York I found the strong support network absolutely necessary to cultivate a city of dreamers.


I was struck by a different kindness from the international travelers making up the Chateau staff. I was a little bit nervous to join a team slightly later in the season than most, afraid that previous friendships may have already formed impenetrable bonds. What I found was the polar opposite: a welcoming group of open arms, an open-door environment, and a willing trust to lend money, a car, or some advice at any hour of the day.


Truly beautiful colors were revealed during a recent bout with the flu that plagued almost every member of our staff. While some people were barely able to breathe or get out of bed, others were making runs to the pharmacy in town to pick up medication, lending magazines and movies to keep patients entertained, covering long hours at work, and even sitting in germ-infested rooms to dull the loneliness and boredom of being quarantined away from home. The selflessness and kindness that I witnessed gave my faith in humanity and my immune system enough of a boost to ward off this round of illness- and yes that’s the sound of me knocking heavily on wood!


I’m not sure if it’s the difficult pace and constant rejection of being a struggling artist in the big city, the isolation and backpacker’s conditions of a small mountain town, or the inherent goodness of people in general, but what I’ve seen of the world is far from what is reflected on the front pages of newspapers and gossip magazines. They are the small voices offering to buy you a coffee, recommend a word-of-mouth traveler’s destination, and pay forward the kindness offered by those before them. What I’ve seen is hope for our future.

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