I’ve always been a pay it forward kind of guy. I love helping my friends out and I love to build community. Every once in a while I ask for help, and every time it’s hard. I don’t fully understand why, but I do know that I am distinctly averse to receiving generosity. This past week has been a learning experience for me.
It started, I think, when the lights started to flicker. We nursed our failing batteries all the way across the South Pacific but when we got to Bundaberg we just let it go. By the time we arrived in Brisbane they were near dead. Then a few nights before Christmas, when Ceildyh was over for dinner they died for good. We were eating and making merry and the whole boat went dark and silent. I switched us over to the starter battery and we finished the night with light (but no music). The next morning Evan called to let me know that he could help out with some old (but hopefully not as dead as our batteries). Then the sink fell in…
By the end of the next day we had three previously loved batteries aboard. The following day Krister came over and helped me to completely rewire the battery to panel end of the boat. It was 5+ hours of tedious, knuckle bleeding work, and he was all in, with a smile. As usual, I didn’t want to ask for help, but when I let go of my anxiety and payed attention, I saw that he was delighted to have been asked; delighted just the way I would have been.
On Christmas Eve morning I woke up to 6v. To non-boatie people this means your batteries will never charge again. I called around and found a shop that was open and a price I could handle. All I had to do was get them from Staypleton (60km away) to our boat. I reluctantly called Ceilydh again, and Evan was roused from sleep to help. My heart sank, he had to take a bus to work to borrow a truck and then drive me to and from the battery store. Then, after returning the truck and bussing back, he spent another bunch of hours helping me to install the new batteries. I should mention here that he really knows his stuff and probably saved me half a day of hemming and hawing.
Remember that sink?
Christmas morning. We open presents and start making second coffee. Britannia calls and we invite them over for coffee and Christmas cheer. After opening more presents, and hanging out for a while Vick starts thinking about the rest of the day and realizes that she’s got a lot of cooking to do for the party. Cooking means dishes and dishes means sink. Vick looks like she’s going to cry. The parts I bought to fix it don’t work. Krister jumps right in to brainstorming mode. In a few minutes he’s talked me out of my project-funk enough to realize that the solution is quite simple. They head home and I start working. Then I break the tap in a piece of aluminum bar and it’s off to Ceilydh to borrow a replacement. On the return trip I see Chris (of Tao) and Krister hanging out in the companionway and they, of course, offer to help. At this point I am so glum I can hardly speak. Krister and Chris come over and basically finish the project for me.
That night all of the boat families in our little community (Convivia, Ceilydh, Britannia, Tao, and Mango) met in the park for Christmas dinner. Most of us have known each other for a few weeks and every one of us has helped the other in some significant way in that short time. As we sat, ate, and laughed I had a moment when I rose above it all and glimpsed the true nature of community.