The best way to help each other (what my Nana taught me)

Via Writing Our Way Home
on Oct 31, 2011
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Fiona writes: When I was a teenager, I was shopping in a supermarket with my Nana.

I’d picked something up (let’s say it was a nice packet of biscuits), and several aisles later I saw some nicer biscuits (like these) and swapped them. I put the old packet down on the new shelf, where it didn’t belong.

Without saying anything, my Nana took the old packet of biscuits back to where they belonged.

Internally, I scoffed at her. I couldn’t understand it. That’s what they employed the shelf-stackers for! Why would she go out of her way when someone else was being paid to fetch and carry?

Twenty years later, I understand. She took the biscuits back because it was the right thing to do.

As my life goes on, I’m less and less convinced that we can ever ‘tell’ anyone else how to be a better person, or how to make better choices.

First of all, who knows if we’ve got it right anyway? Who are we to know how someone else should be living their life? (Or our own, for that matter.)

And secondly, people often behave in a certain way through necessity. How can we know why they are clinging to their old behaviours? ‘Mean’ people may be terrified of not having enough. ‘Lazy’ people might be truly exhausted.

If at the time my Nana had said to me, ‘You lazy child, you should take the biscuits back to where you found them’, I wouldn’t have got it. I would only have heard the ‘ought’. When I look back now, I see that she was modelling a good way to be. Not because she wanted to teach me a lesson, or because she felt she ought to take the biscuits back. It was natural to her – it was simply the right thing to do.

Maybe the best way to help each other is to focus on ourselves. If we can try and be our best version of ourselves, maybe one day we might help someone else to find their own better selves.

Our choices have consequences beyond our imagination. How could my Nana know that I’d be writing this blog post about her small action, twenty years on?


Vetch, Meadowsweet, Celandine

She was talking about
her Zen teacher, Katagiri.
She said it can be twenty years
before you understand.

When mum pulled my best
dress from the wardrobe
on an ordinary day,
I didn’t know she was saying
nothing lasts. Enjoy it
while you can.

And when dad told me
I gobbled books too fast
and tested me afterwards
he wasn’t telling me off
but urging me to taste things
properly. A skimmed book
is a waste of time, and time
runs out.

They dragged me on long walks,
tried to teach me the names
of wildflowers, birds, I didn’t
realise they were showing me
a new way of looking, a way
of loving the world.

Everything goes in.
Twenty years later, more,
I want to say: your words
have now borne fruit. I understand.

Fiona Robyn


‘Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’ Plato.

‘When we see a woman walk along the street, how do we know she is not some brave agoraphobe flinching from the brutal sky?’ Margaret Drabble, The Waterfall.


About Writing Our Way Home

Kaspa & Fiona’s eyes met across a crowded room in 2010. They decided to: a) get married & spend their rest of our lives together, & b) pool their passions & talents to give birth to Writing Our Way Home. Their mission of helping people to connect with the world through writing. They offer a smorgasbord of writing e-courses, & run a thriving community. Read more about their mindful writing practice, small stones, and meet Lorrie in Fiona’s free ebook. / Fiona is a published novelist, therapist, creativity coach, & is very fond of earl grey and home-made cake. Kaspa is a Buddhist priest, writer, therapist, drama enthusiast, & is still learning to play the ukulele.


5 Responses to “The best way to help each other (what my Nana taught me)”

  1. Naz says:

    What a lovely post, I loved every bit of it from the picture of the yummy cookies to the story about your Nana, the poem, the quotes .. every single one of them spoke to me in its own way. Thanks :o)

  2. Fiona Robyn says:

    Naz – what a lovely comment : )
    The cookies do look good, don't they? Wish I had some in the house….

  3. Jess Haight says:

    You have one smart Nana! No better way to show someone how to act than to model it. I just love this story. And- after working at a department story I can say that people like your Nana are few and far between. I now always put things back!

    I found you through Book Blogs and signed up to follow you. When you have a chance- please stop by and follow the blog for my middle grade novel that I am hoping to get published. http://thesecretdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot….

    Also, my co-author, Stephanie, liked your fb page today. Please like us back at:

    Take care-
    Jess- although I may show up as Fairday, the main character from my novel. I can't figure out how to fix it. 🙂

  4. Fiona Robyn says:

    Jess – done. Thanks for reading – I'd forgotten I was on Book Blogs, I love the random connections of the internet…
    Have a great day.

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