A few years ago, I told myself I would manage my time and vote when it came around.
I received fines in the past, so it was time I grew up and tackled this responsibility.
While finishing up my vote and folding my papers, an elderly man stood next to me and asked who I voted for.
He explained that his English wasn’t very good and that his wife could not speak any English.
I felt strangers’ eyes on me as our voices floated in the hall.
A Split Decision
I thought to myself, “fuck it, they need help”. Instead of asking a volunteer for help, I explained who I voted for. I emphasised their vote was their choice.
The elderly man nodded and his wife looked at him for instruction.
He then mentioned that they don’t drive and if I could take them home. They only lived a couple minutes from the hall.
They actually lived in the same suburb as me. What are the chances?
I looked at his wife as she folded their paper. She seemed a little embarrassed by her joyful, talkative husband.
There was a part of my brain telling me that I should not let complete strangers into my car. What’s more, is I was borrowing my boyfriend’s car at the time.
We dropped our paper into the ballot box. As we talked out the community hall, I could feel their presence behind me.
Another split-decision later, I told them that I could take them home to save a taxi fair.
They were very grateful.
The drive about life
The elderly gentleman had sunglasses on the entire walk to my car. He explained that he was legally blind and needed his wife’s help to see.
He then started guessing what colour my car was in broken English.
I finally told him after a few laughs that it was silver.
As we started driving, they asked what I did for a living. I told them I was studying and working.
They told me that they’d moved here for their safety and for a better life. From memory, they had a child or two who was very much grown up and busy.
Although the alarm bells in my head were still going, I started to feel calm.
The fact that they asked about my life and shared a small part of theirs, reminded me that we are all human.
Once we reached their house, they insisted I come in for hot tea. It was a cold winter morning after all.
To be honest, they were lovely but I didn’t want to intrude. I also felt a little strange about walking into a home of people I had met two minutes before.
I politely declined. I asked if they had Facebook to keep in touch. After trying to figure out what Facebook was, they said no. They did not even have internet.
The elderly lady grabbed a piece of paper from her bag. After a lengthy discussion to remember their number, she scribbled onto it.
They both thanked me with beaming smiles and said I was always welcome to visit. I could also call their number anytime.
When I arrived home, the occurrence seemed so surreal. Did I take two strangers home? From previous experience, strangers in the street could be dangerous or hateful.
Read about my experiences here:
Let’s talk about sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment: any behaviour that is unwelcome and unwanted, often causing feelings of intimidation, humiliation…
This short drive broke down a wall of fear within. Don’t get me wrong. Always be aware of your surroundings! In the same instance, be open to making new connections!
What I Learned
1. There are kind people out there.
Despite some of my previous experiences, there is kindness in people! Their interest in my life and sharing theirs, created an instant connection.
Kindness is real.
2. A helping hand is a small gesture that can mean the most.
This kind couple nodded in thankfulness. Driving them two minutes home was no inconvenience to me. But it did change the course of their morning.
3. Remember to nurture the connections you make in life.
You never know what could happen in the future. Making new connections is how we build friendships, relationships, communities, cities and countries.
I wish I had entered their phone number in my mobile at the time. I told myself that I’d keep that piece of paper in my notebook and save it later down the track. Since then, I have moved houses and unfortunately lost my notebook.
So, don’t do what I did and save numbers!
4. If someone cannot speak your language well, have patience. Suspend your judgement.
Throughout my years of working, I’ve met so many people from all walks of life. People who could speak fluent English and some who were still learning.
Practice patience. As long as you’re both making an effort to understand each other and not tear each other down, the exchange is so worth it.
Could you learn a new language? Could you could help a stranger perfect their English?
Suspend your judgement for once. To this day, there are still people in Australia who seem to feel threatened by foreigners. I hear people complain about minorities who “should only speak English.”
Have you needed to leave your home out of safety and start a new life in a new country? Have you ever felt isolated or alone?
Have some empathy and realise that we’re all trying to build a life and survive.
Break down the walls between language, belief and politics
Growing up, I was surrounded by people who believed in the same thing. When I moved out of home, I realised how different my expectations were. So many people in the world with different perspectives.
I am not the most knowledgeable about politics, let’s be honest. I had to take a quiz to see where my ideals “lean towards” most.