I’ve had quite the oddest summer in my life. A confluence of factors:

  • My Dad almost dying and then slowly, slowly amazing us all with his recovery
  • Losing my Nan who, at 97, has finally gone to join Gramps in the endless garden he’s been tending for her
  • Getting clear of all the ADHD noise from my corporate life long enough, and wide enough to realize how much I’d been swallowing down my potential for two decades

All of which brought me back full-circle to the story-teller I naturally am, to the me that wants to make a difference in the world. Having written a whole novel about the caustic illusion of Certainty, I’ve emerged from these past weeks and months with a couple of clear points for my own personal moral compass.

Doesn’t mean they apply to anyone else, they’re just what I’m choosing to follow.

The first – Life is TOO SHORT to not go for it, con mucho gusto!

The second – All you need is love, love is all you need

Obviously, I owe the latter to a certain set of mop-tops from my home country, but this summer I’ve found myself drawn back and back to the core message of love-peace-trust – including my own song which I wrote and recorded in the Spring.

If you’ve been reading along here or at plinky.com, you’ll have spotted how consciously I’m holding to my commitment to love as an enduring anchor for my life. So, today, I had a moment of tension here on vacation that gave me my first real-life test of my compass.

Here’s what happened. It was early evening, and we’d gone down to enjoy the evening entertainment at the pool. This was family-oriented and the pool was filled with kids and parents enjoying the time together. Three early-20 guys came into the pool in chinos and t-shirts, carrying laptop bags. They sat on some of the loungers, and watched the pool – particularly eyeing some of the teenage girls. I noticed them, thinking they looked like bay-area dot-commers, out of place in a vacation resort in Florida – but didn’t think much beyond that, and the fact that they didn’t look like they planned to use the pool at all.

Cut to about 30 minutes later, we’re getting out of the pool, me first – I go over to our table and dry off, get my t-shirt on, then I hear Jane coming with the girls, only Kyra is crying up a storm. Not play-acting – these were hard tears – she’d got scratched by Elise’s toe-nails as E swam away in the pool – an accident, but it had cut her enough to be very, very painful. So she was crying. And, as we walked past the dot-commers, one of them started aping Kyra, boo-hooing and getting a rise from our upset 5-year old.

I saw red for a moment – turned to him, gained my centre and simply said “Please don’t”. The moment froze and I held his gaze, strong but calm. He went to rise, setting his shoulders, but one of his friends grabbed his arm and sat him down. I turned, giving him my back, and went back to our table, where I could see how Kyra was doing. I wasn’t angry or adrenalized – I was pretty calm, yet knowing that things had been close to escalation.

We ended up over the other side of the pool in the bar area – after I’d had to walk past these lads a couple of times – playing bingo and ending the evening in fun with each other. Still, I scanned the pool and breathed something of a sigh of relief when the dot-commers left. I still kept checking for the rest of the evening, though – just in case they might loop back. And all the time wondering how close I’d come to actually putting some of the self-defense work we study at karate into action.

And it was that act that really got me thinking about the nature of love, about what it means to love regardless of circumstances.

In caring for my little girl in her moment of pain, I was loving. In standing up to the lack of respect and compassion from this young man, I was loving. In choosing not to speak a judgement of his intent, I was loving. In choosing not to escalate or press a point, I was loving. In choosing to enjoy the night with my family, I was loving. However, part of my still wants to paint this young man as a ‘bad-guy’, judge his intent by my own story of him, to wish that it had escalated and allow me to practice my learned skills.

Is it odd to admit that? Not when love is on the agenda.

I have to be open to the whole situation, if I am to test the limits of my compass.

And here is where I’ve got to.

Young man. I love you for your choice of communing with your friends. I love you for your energy and desire to be part of the human race. I love you for noticing that my girl was hurt. I love you in your journey through life, to your learning of your own compass. I hope that your journey will teach you of compassion and of reaching out to heal, rather than gaining energy from another’s misery. I love you for the hope you give me that you will be reflecting on what happened at the poolside. I love you for choosing not to escalate the situation. I love you for listening to the caution of your friend. I love you for leaving the pool and choosing not to continue the tension later. And if we are to meet again this week, I will do my best to be as if we’ve never met. I love you, our slate is clean.

All we need is love, love is all we need.