Recently I had to participate in a Zoom evaluation – basically I answered questions via video to no one in particular and then submitted them to some unseen assessment process.

On reflection I wasn’t that happy with all of my answers, and during the follow up the organisation asked me if I would have changed any of them.

Now in my comfort zone, I suddenly snapped into Derek-mode: “Well I am in the business of reflection, and seeking out and grasping improvement opportunities, so yes I would have…”

Did I seriously just say that? And more importantly, did I believe it? Sitting here writing this in a comfortable chair, food in the fridge, without a landlord pressuring me for the rent, I undertook a snap “real” reflection. I decided that I wasn’t quite sure if I did believe all that. Maybe without me noticing it my world has become a revolving billboard of self-help memes, well-meaning cliches, and rote-learned positivity.

Oh no! I’m faking it ‘til I make it!

And then the inevitable thoughts attack the mind: “Am I real?”, “What am I doing here?”, “Am I actually helping or making any difference?”

Later that same day I was told an unadulterated, simple story from a young man I met recently, about his approach to helping people. He told me he often walks past a guy doing it tough, sitting outside the supermarket. He sometimes asks the guy if he can get him anything while he’s in the store. No judgement, no expectation of a hard luck story or some sort of feel-good kick back, just a simple “I’m going in here now so I can grab you something if you need it.”

I’ve been on this earth more than twice as long as the young man in question and had never thought of such a simple, genuine approach to what for some of us is an unnecessarily awkward encounter that tends to pass in a flurry of guilt and over-thinking.

I’ll probably read this column in a week and think I could have done better, but in the meantime, maybe this was my ‘real’ teachable moment; I learned, therefore I am.

Derek Green,
Managing Editor, The Westsider


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