Wednesday, April 05, 2017

In which I try to find the words ...

Towards the end of last year, a Bad Thing happened to me and my family. It wasn't a Very, Very Bad Thing - no one died, we didn't lose our home or our income but, nevertheless, it was a Thing that caused us great pain and stress, and it rocked our faith in human nature.

I'm not going to go into detail here about the Thing, though I intend to at some point in order to warn others. The Thing was very negative and this post is the opposite of that. I won't allow it to taint this space. I don't like spreading negativity - there's more than enough of it online and in the real world - and so I haven't said anything in public about the Bad Thing before now. Only those closest to me knew about it.

At the lowest point in the last five months, I turned to G and said, 'I've always thought things happen for a reason. We're in the middle of this right now and have no perspective beyond it but a point will come when we'll look back and say, Ah, so that's what all that was about.'

How right I was, though I never expected the answer to come so soon and I could never, in my wildest dreams, have anticipated the form it would take. Without my knowledge, those few people who knew about the Thing - some of whom had never met each other - got together to start thinking about ways they could turn the Bad Thing around, support us in a practical way and, most importantly, restore our faith in human nature. They came up with an audacious plan to start a Crowdfunding campaign. Knowing me as they do, they agreed it was vital to keep the plan a secret from me because I would have vetoed it. Not because I'd be ungrateful (how could I possibly be?) but because the very idea would make me squirm with discomfort.

By the time I knew it was happening, donations were well into four figures. I sat staring at my laptop, struggling to breathe, trying to process what I was seeing. What had me gasping for breath the most was not so much the gob-smacking amount that had been raised but the comments people had left. I was reading the sorts of things usually said about someone after they've died, when everyone says what a shame it is that they never knew people cared so much for them. And here I was, alive and very much kicking, the recipient of an outpouring of love and generosity that knocked me sideways. I was way beyond my comfort zone and had no idea how I was supposed to be, or act, or even feel. Words - the raw material of my trade - escaped me or took refuge in cliché. The only way I could cope was to pretend it wasn't happening. I asked the inner circle to pass on a request not to link to me, while worrying that it might look like I was taking it all for granted. But the one thing I was certain about was that it was really important for me not to appear in any way as if I was soliciting on my own behalf.

By the end of the campaign, 171 people had donated, leaving comments that made my eyes stream and my heart soar. (See? Not possible without resorting to clichés.) Many chose to be anonymous and I will never know who they - you - are. I wanted to contact everyone and thank them personally but it felt somehow wrong when there were so many I can't identify.

So I hope no one will consider it lazy if I give a huge collective  
here to each and every one of you. Please imagine me looking into your eyes and holding your hands and telling you how you have touched my heart. I hope that everyone this applies to will see this at some point. 

One person was responsible for the Bad Thing. 171 of you have counter-balanced that negativity with a tidal wave of love. If life is all about making a difference, then you all win at life. And I win because I know all of you.

I think it's appropriate to end by quoting my dad. I once remarked when out with him that he always chatted with everyone he encountered: in shops, banks, on the street. 
      'I like to think that when I meet someone, they go away feeling a little better than before,' he replied. 

Thank you all for being like Daddy Alper.