Building Bridges, Leaf by Leaf.
I read a story recently, about a man name Jarred Wall who had overheard two elderly women discussing Aboriginal Australians whilst having lunch. Their “less than distasteful” comments led him to take action: he bought them a pot of tea.
As Wall himself is of aboriginal ancestry, it may seem a little strange that he might offer the gift of a steaming pot of English Breakfast to a pair of women who spent their afternoon unashamedly bad-mouthing his heritage.
What he did, however, can only be described as a perfectly subtle embodiment of the timeless affront on ignorance through kindness.
Offensive behavior often generates a negative response. We’re typically inclined to fight fire with fire—to respond to something we dislike with an equal measure of disgust or adversity. Naturally, this reaction can only serve to continue the generation of hostility and crappy energy, which will in turn only reinforce those original negative beliefs anyway.
When we find ourselves in a situation where someone else’s small-minded opinions become personally offensive, the best response is normally to simply disregard their words and move on without a second thought. If we can continue to nurture our own beliefs without expecting others to adhere to them, our egos can remain grounded as we focus on our own paths of self-development.
But what if we seized the opportunity to confront those people with a little kindness, thus soothing whatever it was that led them to those negative beliefs in the first place?
Asking ourselves to “change someone’s mind” is unfair and completely unrealistic. If Wall had attempted to sit down with these women to talk to them about who he and his family actually are, it might have been received with open ears…but it’s pretty unlikely. By sending the elderly women a pot of tea, he offered a gesture of openness. Effectively, he asked them to stay for a little while, enjoy a little more time together, and to think a little harder about the beliefs they’d unjustly formed. If, after drinking the tea, they continued to maintain their ideas, he’s really not lost a moment of his time or energy in attempting to help them see things from another perspective.
Making tea for my friends and family is one of my favorite pastimes. In my opinion, anything made with a little love in mind tastes oh so much sweeter—tea in particular, as we can then sit down to enjoy it together.
But what happens when it’s necessary to make tea for someone we, well, just really don’t like?
If we let our own negativity seep into the steep, that bitterness is transferred to the cup, adding once again to that nasty little cycle of crappy energy. So, then, it is our responsibility (if only to maintain the integrity of tea) to muster the warmth within ourselves and apply it to every last sip that we create for another. Even though expending this small amount of positive energy for someone less-than-deserving might seem somewhat of a waste, I’ve found the rewards to be large. Whilst negative reactions can quickly dissipate when managed correctly, energy drawn from positive action is boundless.
We get back double what we’ve put into our quick gift.
In the pursuit of helping others to take a step back and see limiting attitudes for what they truly are, tea is a great weapon. The warm connotations of such a social pastime as sharing a pot of tea are not lost on such a gesture. When it comes to topics like racism, the energy of a steeping leaf is a wonderful antidote to the negativity and history associated with it. It offers a moment’s perspective, which we could all do with from time to time.
Of course, the idea of solving the world’s ignorance with tea is quite extreme, but battling these small, seemingly inconsequential situations with a little love can only help to ease a bigger picture of unawareness. These are the gestures that we remember and carry with us as we develop our beliefs and move through our lives.
Author: Sophia Royle
Image: Jarred Wall/Facebook
Editor: Toby Israel