Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Humility… Or an old-fashioned sense of responsibility

A selection of my ugly, wonky pots

I made a gaff this week… I am only human after all.

People make mistakes all the time, and I, for one, like to think that I’m moderately forgiving and tolerant. Of course, there are people who simply crash through life like bulls in china shops. That’s OK, just so long as they have a little humility and take responsibility for their actions. Some do… Some don’t.

Have I mentioned that I throw pots? By which, of course, I mean on a potter’s wheel, and not at the wall. I’m not very good at it… yet. Practice makes perfect, and, like everything else, it could take ten thousand hours to become really proficient. Read Malcom Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ on the subject, if you haven’t already. I’m a little less able than some of the other students in my class, because of some physical stuff I deal with. This physical stuff also tends to make me clumsier than I would like. I try to ameliorate the problems with a little extra patience and concentration.

By the end of our class this week, my concentration was at a low ebb. I dropped a trimming tool. On it’s own, that’s fine; they don’t break, and it’s just a question of picking the thing up and putting it away. On this particular occasion, I dropped the tool on some newly-made pots. I’d sat at the wheel next to the student who made the pots, and she did it diligently and carefully, and it mattered to her to get it right. It didn’t matter how right she’d got it when I’d dinked up three of her lovely pots, because I was too stupid not to drop a tool.

I looked around and couldn’t see the student. Someone said not to worry about it; she wasn’t there, so she’d never know what I’d done. He might have been kidding, but lots of people would have taken this course of action.

 A member of staff walked in, and I asked her to look at the pots. Fortunately, she was able to reassure me that the dinks could be sponged out. I was relieved, but still upset at my clumsiness, and guilty, too. She mentioned that she’d seen the student outside.

Now, I was concerned that the student get back to the pots quickly enough to fix them before they dried. I was due to leave, but I hung around on the off-chance that she’d be back sooner rather than later.

The pot-maker came back into the studio a few minutes later. I told her what had happened, and apologised. I also said that she should be able to sponge out the dinks if she did it straight away. She couldn’t have been nicer. I’d messed up her morning’s work, and she simply smiled and told me not to worry about it. She was genuine, and my guilt was assuaged. My remorse clearly showed, and everything was fine.

I wonder how differently she might have felt if she’d come back to spoilt pots and no one wanted to take responsibility. I didn’t think twice about what I should do, and I wasn’t afraid of her reaction. I couldn’t have walked away with that guilt… I’d have felt it for days afterwards.

On the other hand, if someone dinked one of my pots, I would’ve chucked it in the recycling bin and made another one… There’s always more clay, and throwing pots is positively addictive, so the chance to make another is always welcome.

It’s easy to say that manners cost nothing. I’ll do anything for anyone, but it’s always lovely to get a thank you. The dort is particularly good at being grateful for the little things that I do for her, and it always makes it a greater pleasure to do them. I like to be thanked, and I like to thank those people who do things for me, however small they might seem. I always thank the husband if he makes a cup of tea, cooks a meal, or drives me somewhere. Why wouldn’t I? I’m happy to feel the gratitude for small acts of kindness, and a little appreciation makes him feel valued. It’s a simple, but elegant equation.

The same applies to those gaffs. I feel better for owning up and apologising, and it gives the person sinned against the opportunity to feel good about their magnanimity.

This social to and fro generally works extremely well, and keeps us all happy.

Once in a while, someone will stay angry when we transgress. Sometimes, it’s worth repeating the apology, or ramping it up with a guilt-gift, and sometimes it just takes time for forgiveness to happen. Once in a very long while, a transgression might never be forgiven, and that’s sad, but it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.

Once in a while, someone won’t feel gratitude for an act of kindness. It might be worth reminding them to say thank you, because gratitude isn’t always automatic, and just because it isn’t automatic doesn’t mean it isn’t felt. Of course, there are occasions when gratitude isn’t felt, when people take things for granted, or when the kind act was unwanted. We don’t all feel the same way about everything. This kind of rejection shouldn’t be taken personally, and shouldn’t prevent future acts of kindness, but we might choose on whom we bestow our kindnesses.

The point is: Be nice to each other, be kind, be grateful and be humble. It’s the thoughtful little things that make the World go around.

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