Last week I found myself in Canberra with two friends, an empty tank of petrol, and a tent. I was in the ‘Bra to volunteer at the National Folk Festival for some production experience and to hopefully have a folky fun time. We arrived with fifteen minutes to assemble our eight-person tent, which I had forgot was slightly broken (thanks, Splendour). Struggling, we asked our perfectly pitched neighbour if we could borrow his hammer. We tried to bang the pegs into ground, but alas, it was so arid that the dried mud cracked into millions of pieces. After trying for not very long, we gave up and ran to our first shifts, leaving our tent flat and defeated on the cold ground. It was a sad time. But when we returned later that night, resigned to the reality that we would have to sleep in the car, something magical had happened, a folk fairy had pitched our tent!
I’ve experienced the kindness of strangers before. I’ve also experienced the anger, frustration, rudeness, sadness, and bad smell of strangers too. It’s really quite funny to think about how a split-second interaction with someone you’ll never see again can make or break your day, week, or in extreme cases, your life. It’s equally quite bizarre to think that you could have had such an impact on someone’s life without realising it or knowing who they are, and asking for nothing in return. It’s just a beautiful part of our human-ness.
I think it also comes down to people liking secrets. There’s something so empowering about having a little secret, or remaining anonymous. It just magnifies your good deed. I remember once when I was younger I deliberately left a two-dollar coin on the playground for someone to find. I didn’t even wait to see who found it, I was really just secretly thrilled by the idea that I had given someone a present which they didn’t know was a present, but was really a carefully crafted plan. I challenge you to try a secret good deed, see if you get the same rush – maybe I was just a really strange kid.
We woke up from a wonderful sleep in our magical tent the next morning to the sound of the unzipping of next-door’s tent. In my gumboots I galumphed after our neighbour, my croaky voice cutting through the misty Canberra air: “S’SCUSE ME, THANKS FOR LETTING US USE YOUR HAMMER AND FOR PUTTING UP OUR TENT, HERE IS SOME THANK YOU FUDGE.” He looked down with distaste at the grubby white bag that housed his choc-vanilla swirl fudge and took it as he nodded at me. It struck me that he probably didn’t want any thank you fudge; he just wanted to help. Which just melts my heart, like his fudge I had accidentally slept on the night before. I guess the moral of this story is that sometimes a tool is not enough, you need a bit of secret magic; you need some good spirited TLC from strangers or fairy folk. And they probably won’t want your fudge, so you can keep that for yourself.
By Olivia Costa