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Danny's Piece

Average: 4.1 (10 votes)

Three Years Ago...

"I didn't do it. I don't like writing", Sebastian muttered sullenly.
Sebastian was a student from Switzerland, and the above was his answer to the question I'd just asked...namely, "Where's the essay I gave you for homework last Friday?"
"It's boring", he added.
"I disagree", I said. "If writing is boring, it's only because the writer is boring. The kind of person who, given the opportunity to create entire new worlds, inhabited by a host of deliciously amazing characters who find themselves in equally delicious and equally amazing situations, can only come up with some kind of lame scenario like '...and then I woke up because it had all been a dream'. Or, in your case...nothing at all".
"I guess I must be a boring person then", replied Sebastian. The look in his eyes said 'ha!'
"That's not for the writer to decide", I said. "That's the reader's opinion. In other words, mine. Go home, write me the essay. Something inspirational. Something that will talk to the heart, the soul and the mind, and make people want to slay dragons and go on quests and do insanely brave things like listen to Paris Hilton’s album. You never know… you might change someone's life or, at the very least, make their day".
The look in my eyes said 'yah-boo, sucks to you!'
Sebastian scowled.
"And make sure it flows logically", I added. "It's incredibly annoying when you suddenly change the subject halfway through, and nobody can figure out what's going on...".

Eighteen Years Ago...

When I was seventeen, and therefore knew everything there was to know about everything, the one thing that I wanted more than anything else in the world was a long, flowing, red raincoat. I had seen Nicolas Cage wearing one in a film, and it was the coolest thing since cucumbers. It draped over Nic's shoulders like a mantle of absolute unflappability, and when a gust of wind caught it, it billowed and danced like an inferno of ultimate 'with-it'-ness. I would have given my right arm to own a raincoat like that, but I couldn't find anyone who actually wanted my right arm, so I decided to buy one instead. The only one I could find was about three sizes too big, and, rather than billow dramatically in the wind, it would inflate like a hot-air balloon at the slightest breeze and lift me off my feet, but it was a long, flowing, red raincoat, and it was mine. I was making a statement. It was only years later that I realised that the statement I was making was 'Hello everyone. I look like an idiot'.
At least it was warm. And waterproof.

Two Years Ago...

My best friend works in a bank. His is the kind of job where the stress levels run so high that they have snow on the top. Two years ago, he had the unenviable task, over a weekend seminar, of explaining to a group of extremely disgruntled international bankers why his bank taking over the management of theirs was a good thing. He'd spent half the night before writing cue-cards designed to motivate and inspire teamwork and a bright future. Only to find, a few seconds after taking his place behind the podium in front of forty-five sceptical money-men, that he had left the cue-cards at home, on his bedside table. So he rammed his hands deep into his pockets, and took a deep breath...

Three Years Ago...

"Here you go", said Sebastian, handing me a sheet a lined paper with his blue-penned scrawl covering both sides of it. He was in a considerably better mood than the previous day. "This is a work of art. I'm not sure about the English, but it's a tale of hope, and of overcoming obstacles, and of solidarity, and of evening the odds. It is definitely not boring. It might make your day. It might even change your life". He beamed at me.
I thanked him and took it from him.
And then I lost it.

Last Year...

... my brother had his backpack stolen by some anonymous ne'er-do-well. This would not have been too big a deal had he not been approaching the check-in desk at Moss Airport, sixty kilometers from Oslo in Norway at the time, and had the contents of his backpack not included his passport and his wallet containing every last Euro and Norwegian Krone he owned. But he was, and it did. And so it was a big deal.
There's nothing quite like being stuck helpless and broke in a foreign country to induce feelings of despair and loneliness, and, despite the beautifully romantic name, the Land Of The Midnight Sun is no exception.

Last Week...

I was in a foul mood last week. To cut a long story short, I had surrendered my car to a panel-beater two weeks earlier so that he could raise the dent in my bumper, put there courtesy of a moronic road-hog who should never have been allowed within a five-mile radius of a car, let alone behind the wheel of one.
“I’ll have it done for you in a couple of days”, promised the panel–beater, sucking thoughtfully on a pencil as he mentally calculated how much the repair would cost, before doubling it and adding seventy percent to the total.
I phoned him two weeks later, enquiring whether my car was ready yet.
"You may remember it", I added dryly. "You said it would take a couple of days to fix. I was just wondering which couple of days you meant".
"Tell ya what", said he. "Call me in a couple of days".
"And it will be ready?" I growled.
"If you call me in a couple of days, I'll let you know when it'll be ready'.
So...I was in a foul mood. I had to walk to work.
And it was raining heavily.
So I wore my red raincoat, because it is the warmest and most waterproof piece of clothing I own. It still fits me, because it was three sizes too big when I bought it, and it's still in good condition, despite being eighteen years old, because I hardly ever wear it. In fact, my brother had worn it last, when he was in Norway on holiday, because Norway is a cold country and he wanted something warm. And before that...my best friend had borrowed it because his coat was at the dry-cleaners’ and he needed a coat to wear over his suit in order to look simultaneously smart and dynamic at a weekend seminar where he was supposed to be giving a talk. The last time that I had actually worn it was about three years ago. In fact, I was wearing it when some Swiss student of mine had given me an essay to correct and I had taken it from him and put it in my pocket without thinking and so, now, I reached into my pocket and felt a folded piece of paper and pulled it out and there it was...a sheet of lined paper covered in blue scrawl, with the name 'Sebastian' printed right at the top, and I stopped under the shelter of a shop canopy and read it, and...
It was a work of art. Inspirational. It spoke to my heart, my soul and my mind. It made me want to slay dragons, go on a quest and buy Paris Hilton's latest album. It lifted my black mood, and made my day.
Underneath Sebastian's spidery handwriting was a short message, in different handwriting...
'D - I have no idea who this Sebastian guy is, but I owe him one...'
It turned out that my friend Chris, the banker, having looked for his cue-cards and drawn a blank, had discovered the essay in my coat pocket and, in a moment of sheer desperation, paraphrased it to a group of resentful bank managers, and, by the end, had had them on their feet, applauding, cheering and calling out expressions such as 'hear hear' and 'yes, by jingo!'
My brother too had left a little note, first telling me off because he was sure that 'you should have corrected and handed back this essay ages ago, you lazy bugger', and then going on to rave about how brilliant the essay's message was and how it had given him hope and helped him get through numerous annoyances and language barriers with the Norwegian authorities, and finally back to Malta.
It was definitely not boring.

Finally, Today...

I suppose the point of this whole story is this...
Whatever we do, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem at the time, can affect someone else. The right word at the right time, and to the right person, can change everything. A reluctantly-written essay, a foolishly-purchased raincoat, a dry-cleaners', a bank takeover bid, a Norwegian airport thief and a Swiss student - you wouldn't think there was a connection there, but everything is connected sooner or later. Sometimes we never see the connections between one thing and another. If we could - if a red thread, for example, linked one person to the other - then I'm fairly confident that each and every one of us would be part of a huge red living web.
Which means that we have a responsibility. We need to choose our words carefully, think our actions through, and realize that, to someone, somewhere, we make a difference. When we give someone hope, or inspiration, or simply a smile, we make the world a better place.
And that's my inspirational piece. Whether it's a true story or not is up to you to decide. And Sebastian, if you happen to be reading this...well done. You get a ten out of ten.
One last thing. Don't buy Paris Hilton's album. It sucks.

Link: Danny's Junk Mail

Danny is a teaher at EC Malta. Click here for more information on EC Malta.