Friday, March 18, 2016

Building Support (with Luke)

One of the benefits of my wandering wondering is that I get to meet up with the scatterlings of Africa. Luke and I grew up in Westville. Although he was the year ahead of me, we got involved in some house plays and other activities. Memories blur, but there would have been Art after school on a Friday,  various sporting events and the general activity that goes on being in a school of >1,000 boys. I am often jealous of young people in their school years. I think we all get a little too serious, a little too fast. I met up with Luke and we had a chat. A proper one with real coffee, memories and man hugs. Then to follow up, we decided to do a guest conversation post...

Trev:
I think we might start working to early. Some of the best lessons life has to teach take a lot of time. We need some grey hair and wrinkles, and a few punches to the gut, before we can really come to grips with what is going on. I enjoyed talking with you about your 20 years of experience in reading people from working behind bars. Learning about body language. Learning about moods. This is not the kind of stuff that can be taught at a university, or read in a book. It comes from being around when people are down and out. And when people are celebrating.

Luke: 
I think my biggest learning point in understanding people is that as unique as everyone may be, everyone is seeking very similar if not the same ideals. People want to be accepted, people want to fulfil a loneliness, and people want to be acknowledged for their worth and/or contribution to the world or environment. It all boils down to ego. People want to be appreciated in one way or another. Whether it be the over aggressive, over boisterous, or the over emotional individual, the end need is the same, "make my ego feel satisfied".  If individuals can learn to put the ego aside, to be at peace and acceptance with oneself, the world would begin to move forward.


Trev:
There are definitely two competing ideas that we are trying to wrap our heads and hearts around. 'Finding yourself' and building up confidence in worth as an individual. And building up a community where the broader goals of the group are more important. It is interesting how finding yourself often comes from finding a group of which you are a part. I think this is because worries get abstracted. They are the worries of the group. They aren't yours and yours alone. When you put effort in, you are contributing to something bigger and the satisfaction comes from that. What I like about what you do is the openness. Often groups get formed from high flyers. We stick to people who are doing well. In a bar, people might be celebrating, but they often go there to vent. Everyone. Anyone. When things have gone wrong. You must get the full range of emotions, with less of the restraints.

Luke:
I find that in this day and age the group or community is becoming increasingly less important as "the self" or the individual.  People are becoming more and more self absorbed and selfish. Technology, unfortunately, while it has moved mankind forward, is also pushing us backwards socially as the human element becomes more and more removed. I watch groups of people on a daily basis sitting at a big table with majority of the people glued to their phones. People care less about what is going on directly around them and care more about their own instant gratification. Or that the connections made in social environments are based on "what can you do for me" rather than enjoying the person for their company. Human beings, as much as we are social creatures, we are selfish creatures, a trait that is growing stronger daily as it becomes easier to disconnect.


Trev:
There is definitely the danger of that. Tools that can enrich relationships by making it easier to engage with people all over the world can also allow us to get lost. Like children who say they are lonely in big families. Or city dwellers walking past thousands of people, but not knowing any of their names. I found what we spoke about the other day interesting though. As a barman, it is not your job to be there as a support. It is your job to give someone a drink. Yet, you end up seeing people as they are. Listening. Accepting. Without judgement of who that individual is, or where they are going. I think there is power in that. You understand where people are, not where they should be. It is easier to walk with someone from where they are to bring them into a community, than to stand shouting from a distance.

Luke:
One does see people as they are but it is also a case of seeing them as they want to be seen. All people have their guard up, some more than others, so they will let you see what they want you to see. If a person feels they let you see too much of their real self after they've had too many drinks, they simply don't come back, or will blame the booze for their behaviour. So one has to keep a balance of keeping them close while keeping them at a distance. There are also the lonely people out there who latch onto the bartender and don't realise that they are there for a job not for a party. It can often lead to awkward moments as they misunderstand the bartenders friendliness. You see people's true nature, the best of it and the worst of it, and it is truly eye opening. It helps understand the world and it's people more clearly.


Trev:
We are all full of those insecurities and walls as you say. Whether it is trust or booze that drop the guard, it would be great if there were more places where people did feel comfortable giving and receiving that support. A lot of us probably go through similar struggles not realising how common they are. Religious people get to talk to ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and the like. Secular people probably need to rely on paid support... and so there can be confusion when that support comes from a barman. Especially if that barman isn't as interested in other people as you are! Social Media does open a potential avenue for us to get closer to the stories of other real people. But, like a bar, it probably also comes with the bad behaviour and aggression that can sometimes bring out the bad with the good.

Luke:
I don't think it would be that confusing when the support comes from the bartender. Bartenders are the clich├ęd "shoulder to cry on" kind of people. Some just take it more literally than others. It is sad to say, that for the most part, the more the person tips the more the bartender will care about them. As much as bartenders are people persons, the goal for the bartender is the same as any other job, to make as much money as possible, and have as much fun as they can while doing it.


Trev:
Setting boundaries for support is a challenge. With paid work things are often clearer, although perhaps they blur after a few. It is also difficult to tell where the client/ friend/ colleague borders lie. To negotiate what you are prepared to give. What you are prepared to ask for. What you are prepared to be asked for. What makes bars a little different is the equalising factor. Unless they are specifically exclusive with cover charges and very pricey drinks, there is perhaps more mixing than would happen elsewhere. Whether bars, libraries, sports events, churches, temples, mosques, the shared spaces are what keep any community ticking.

Luke:
In an ideal world, there wouldn't be an equalising factor, it wouldn't be necessary. We would see each other as equals, simply playing different roles in the play of life. But, we don't live in ideal world, so it carries on with egos and delusions of grandeur, of self perceived betterment for society. In doing so, so many good people's potential is lost, and many people's wants and needs ignored. A successful community will happen when there is a common understanding and welcome acceptance of the part each person must play, and a mutual respect thereof. Unfortunately the world is too large and complex for this to happen on a global scale.  The clock keeps ticking.
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