It had been a beautiful day. A great picnic, at an incredibly scenic place. Lush greens, woods of oak and other trees I don’t know of, a lake, a hundred-year-old hacienda, a cottage with roses growing all around. Marvellous people, an extravagant potluck lunch, bonhomie…and then it was time to wrap up on this high note of pleasure. But nothing perfect lasts forever – forever? This didn’t even last through a picnic!
As I gathered my things: crockery, cutlery etc and put them back into my bags, one of the bags – the bigger one – toppled over knocking another smaller one off the bench on which some of us had placed our stuff. I was engrossed in what I was doing, getting out my medicines which I had to take at that hour, and I didn’t register the sound of anything falling off. In my favour, I could add that in the cacophony of many voices, about thirty odd people talking, I didn’t notice what had happened. That is until a rude, strident voice cut into my reverie – if reverie it was.
“Look what you’ve done! You dropped my bag!”
I snapped out of wherever my mind had been and saw this rather heavy woman stomping up to where the bench was, looking like a thundercloud.
“But I didn’t!” I said wondering what she was talking about.
“Yes,” she insisted, “you did. There look,” she retorted hotly and pointed to the ground.
“oh! I didn’t know. I’m so sorry,” I added with genuine remorse.
I proceeded to pick up her bag, which was a difficult task as I had to be careful not to hurt my back and also my left arm and shoulder which were recovering from an injured tendon.
“And all my cutlery and glasses too…You dropped everything!” she continued.
It took a lot of self-control not to talk back to her. I was on the edge by that time. Her attitude was accusatory, her tone was derogatory. I shifted my mind to a small prayer for patience and self-control. I needed help!
I picked up her bag and handed it to her, and also the tray under the bench which was the only thing that had any cutlery and a couple of glasses in it. The spoons and knives were dirty as were the glasses.
“The cutlery is dirty!” I said.
“That cutlery isn’t mine,” She spat, and grabbed the bag, stared daggers at the tray and its contents, “And neither are the glasses.”
“Well, ok, I’ll just put it back where it was. So it appears nothing fell out of your bag! And I didn’t deliberately drop your bag, but still I’m sorry about it,” I said and continued calmly with whatever it was I was doing before her rude intrusion.
I wondered later in the day when I was back home, why people like her were so rude, unkind, and demeaning. And I also wondered what would have happened if I had spoken to her in the same way. Apart from ruining the entire day, as she almost did mine, it would have caused bad relations which would have triggered much negativity into the group. Invariably there would have been a side that thought she was right and one that supported me though I admit the ones for me would be a minuscule group. I don’t really ‘belong’ here. I am the foreigner trying to adjust. While almost everyone is extremely nice, friendly and helpful I am quite sure if it came to taking sides, I’d not have many on mine. I understand that. One stands with one’s long-standing friends and colleagues.
I’m so thankful I didn’t react to her in kind. It would have triggered an outpouring of unwanted vitriol. That’s how hatred, bitterness and resentment brew. It was better to respond with courtesy. I don’t know her story so I can’t say I know where she’s coming from, but from experience I can say I have an idea. We can only give out what we have inside of us. It takes a certain kind to be unkind with no apparent cause.