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Finding joy in the little things

Finding joy in the little things

[Disclaimer: this blog contains reference to ABI (Aquired Brain Injury) which some readers may find upsetting and it, therefore may be advisable for those affected not to read on]

I spent the morning in a café today fully intending to use the opportunity to focus on work, free from distractions. The only table available was a long “sharing” table and the waitress suggested I tuck myself away at the end where I would be undisturbed.

Within minutes, a disheveled, unkempt chap with a long beard, scraggly hair and poor hygiene came in, seemingly making a beeline for me.

[image courtesy of Aimee Boschet]

To be really honest, I was praying that he would sit at the other end of the 20-seater table where 18 of the 20 chairs were free, but no. It was not to be. He carefully shuffled his way to a seat next to me, cautiously, and somewhat unsteadily, climbing over the power cable to my laptop and said very slowly and falteringly, but with a friendly smile, “Ain’t it a lovely day?” (it was a beautifully sunny day).

I murmured “It is” with a slight (but probably cool) smile, nodding graciously in agreement and (in true British fashion) returned to typing, ensuring he got the message I was far too busy for small talk.

Moments later, just as I was back in the flow of writing, he interrupted with: “Why do people in the jungle have headaches?” followed by “because there are no painkillers - the parrots-eat-em-all”! I laughed politely, hoping that he would then be quiet so I could concentrate.

About a minute later, he interrupted - again!- by asking why he can’t drink and drive…followed by “I’ll spill it!” Once again, I smiled with a little polite laugh, beginning to realise that being left alone to concentrate was unlikely. He grinned and said “I am a bit cheeky – I got some good one-liners!”

One final time, I turned my attention back to my writing but only for a nanosecond. Pointing to the opposite wall, he said “Ain’t that a lovely painting all about the seasons? One of them seasons is my family name.” I glanced over at the vibrant and eye-catching painting and realised I had not even noticed it having walked straight past earlier.

[Artist – Kay Gretton –]

He went on to share that his cousin (with the same name) was a ranger at a nearby beautiful reservoir who had made it possible for him to visit for free “I’n’t that nice of him to do that for me after my head injury?” Again, he grinned, looking delighted. As I tuned into what this guy was saying to me, it struck me that I had a lot to learn…not only from him but also about life.

He shared some of his story with me, about being a farmhand before the ABI (acquired brain injury) and how he still loves being outdoors. He can’t work now, but said he goes out every day for a little walk. He talked about people he knew and their stories, all interspersed with one-liners and an infectious grin. He found joy in the tiniest thing – an interaction with his support worker and her dog, the lady at the checkout, the day centre gardener with his plant knowledge and jokes, the huge mouthwatering cooked breakfast in front of him.

Our entire encounter was probably only an hour but within that time he had me properly chuckling and enjoying our time together. As he left, I felt quite sad that he was leaving. In all honesty, I felt ashamed of myself – I had nearly missed this opportunity for joy because I prioritised work before people and made assumptions about this delightful man who had learnt to find joy despite the heartache of a head injury that had tipped his life upside down.

I am indebted to him for demonstrating joy, determination and courage; he knocked me off my “I’m too busy and important to chat” pedestal and reminded me of the importance of connection with others.

The morals of this tale are:

1. Stop and take notice of what is around you – seek joy in the small things

2. Coaches and counsellors are human too – we get things wrong, we make assumptions, we make mistakes just like everyone else and I am so sorry for the ones I have made that have hurt others.

This day has turned out to contain lots of unexpected joy and my thanks go to this lovely warm-hearted and humorous chap, to whom this blog is dedicated.

Side note:

In looking up the artist, Kay Gretton, I was interested to notice that she, too, had faced adversity after being struck with ME and fibromyalgia but found joy through her artwork. Her work is really beautiful and well worth looking up on

[Artist – Kay Gretton –]

For more on joy:

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