OPINION: I was driving through Hamilton East the other day, stopped at traffic lights in Grey St and, as sometimes happens, I glanced over at the driver in the next lane.
She was a young Muslim woman, wearing a headscarf, maybe mid-20s. She looked at me, I smiled, she responded with a smile that lit up her face. She was beautiful, she nodded a greeting, the lights changed, she was gone.
I felt the warmth as I drove on, the glow from one of those fleeting moments when you almost accidentally connect with a stranger.
It must have been my day for it - a little later in Hamilton East, I was pulling out of a park in Grey St's main shopping stretch, there was a queue of cars, I signalled, settled back to wait for a gap. Next minute, two young guys in a low-slung boy racer car with a thumping engine stopped to let me in.
I hesitated, they seemed an unlikely duo to do this, were they having me on? I was quite wrong. As they revved their engine they made exaggerated but good-natured gestures that they definitely wanted me to nip in front of them. I waved my thanks, they waved back, away we went.
In a world that seems awash with bad news and stories of hardship and cruelty (I can't get the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls out of my mind), I'm kind of looking for good things. Almost keeping a mental ledger of the little stuff we take for granted, the everyday courtesies and comforting things that make the world a happier place.
I'm not doing it in a Pollyanna-ish sort of way, but just to remind myself that most people are still kindhearted and good to each other, and we live in a pretty amazing country.
In Cambridge recently, a man randomly pointed out that one of the tyres on my car "looked a bit soft" and needed air in it. He was right, and I hadn't noticed. I was grateful for the advice.
At a roadside fruit stall the other day, the woman who owned the property was packing things up for the afternoon when I stopped to buy fruit and she popped a generous helping of extra figs into a bag for me because she said they were very ripe and would probably go to waste. I'd done my own bit a while back when I gave a woman in front of me at the supermarket checkout some lemons. She was about to buy a couple and commented that it seemed oddly wrong to pay for lemons when they grew so abundantly in Hamilton. I said I'd been given a huge bag of them that very day, they were in my car, and I was happy to share. She put the supermarket ones back on the shelf, we walked out to the carpark together.
On Mother's Day a couple of weeks ago, I had breakfast at Grey Street Kitchen with some of my family, and there were chocolate cupcakes handed out as a treat for all mothers. Later that morning I went up the Thames Coast to a birthday party for my god-daughter, joined about 20 people for a celebratory lunch, basked in the pleasure of good friends, and long and loving connections.
I came home to find a couple of home maintenance jobs that have been bugging me for a while had been done by one of my kids in my absence. A wayward garden hose and the television in the bedroom are now in full working order.
The backdrop to these small pleasures has been the weather. Yes, I know it always comes back to the weather, but there have been some glorious May days, the Waikato at its seasonal finest, when you feel the last warmth of autumn, when the trees are red and gold, when the air is so still and soft that you could almost reach out and bottle it. I was talking to a woman on the phone from Wellington on one of those days and she mentioned the weather was crap down there. "What's it like up your way?" she said. "Mellow late autumn, amazingly crisp sunny days," I said. "Ah," she said, "I used to live in Hamilton, I know exactly what you mean, I miss that." But there's also been fog: a reminder that winter's close.
This week there have been more serious efforts, a clutch of classic Waikato whiteouts. By the time you read this, it may be sleeting down with rain, or perhaps an early frost, the end of the golden weather. You can't have everything, but you can still make the most of the good stuff that crosses your path.
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