I have a generous, gregarious friend who once said to me in a small voice, “Sometimes I wonder if people think I’m like a silly puppy with big paws.”
She’s always brave enough to extend the first hand of friendship, invites crowds for coffee at her funky house, gives away tomatoes, eggs or cuttings from her garden, newly baked muffins, a spare wheel-barrow, offers to teach you stained glass, runs for charity, is excited about your achievements, hairdo, outfit, shares her quirky, creative ideas…. you get my drift.
Is she ‘silly’? Of course not. Is she inclusive, does she have a generous heart? I think so.
I love free spirits. I want to be one. Free spirits aren’t bound by the fear of conforming, they don’t cautiously wait for others to take the first step. They think for themselves, don’t default to authority. They’re not necessarily extroverts either, or people with high self-esteem. I really admire this social courage, as the risk of being ridiculed, of standing out, being rejected, can be high.
Free spirits strive for happier and healthier relationships. Women especially are prone to toxic gossiping and what I’ll call ‘safety in numbers, less than Jesus-like behaviours’, which are discussed in Alana Munro’s book, Women Behaving Badly. Those women are definitely not free spirits. Perhaps it’s a leftover from evolution, when remaining in the group (or herd) was paramount to our social survival.
One day my mother stopped to ask a child if she was okay, if she needed help. The child’s mother was openly verbally abusing her daughter in the street. The mother then proceeded to yell at my mother. That’s where social courage merges with moral courage.
I think my father is a free spirit. As I’ve said before, he finds common ground with people everywhere. He’ll exchange pleasantries about food, transport, the weather, sleep, philosophy, the human body, pets, toileting (a perennial, especially bowels, especially his bowels), and his piece de resistance – science, which he manages to sneak into every conversation sooner rather than later. I’ve often observed people regard him cautiously, weighing him up at first, asking themselves, “Is this guy uber-sharing for a weird reason, or is he just being friendly?” Most people eventually relax and reciprocate. He’s a social short cutter.
In a similar but different example, my youngest daughter was the student who befriended a blind student from another school on the bus. The one nobody sat next to. I wish I’d done that when I was her age. I was the teenager too nervous to get up and be the only one getting off a bus, waiting for other passengers to press the button, sometimes quite a few stops after my own.
All this reminds me that life is short, and being timid never helped me. It also reminds me of a Cosmo Jarvis song, ‘We Just Wanna Talk’, about people ignoring each other whilst commuting in the London Underground. The Guardian had this to say about Cosmo Jarvis, “This is where…. Jarvis is perhaps most different and potentially important: he is willing to risk ridicule, incomprehension or hostility as he tries to communicate. It can be liberating.” An excerpt of the lyrics are below –
So I’m standing in a bullet …
I can see myself in all of you
And all of you in me
But a frightened little planet,
Most of all, is what I see.
The best friend you never made
Could be one foot away
And end up anonymous
Because you never tried to say
“Hey”. Look at that,
It’s a lady with a pram,
I’m not gonna help her
But I do give a damn.
It’s just that if I offer to
She might go crazy,
And think I think she’s weak
‘Cause she’s a lady with a baby.
I really don’t think
Anyone knows anymore
When to talk and so we don’t
‘Cause we’re just not sure.
And this is why people kinda just
Wanna be alone,
We just want to talk, but we are way too scared.
We just want to talk, but there’s silence here instead.
We just want to talk, you can never talk enough,
But we can’t even talk no more,
So how we s’posed to love?
I also love his ‘Gay Pirates’ song. I think Cosmo Jarvis is doing a tour in Australia as I’m posting this?
As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” What are your thoughts on social courage?
Guardian reference: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/aug/11/cosmo-jarvis-interview
Alana Munro: http://alanamunroauthor.com/