Davey was frightened. He had made all sorts of mistakes in life, and now it had come to this, he thought to himself as he gazed fixedly into the putrid black water.
Thinking all the usual thoughts that people think in Davey’s position – he was practiced at them by now – he contemplated the ordinary bleakness of the future and what he might do next. After all the comings and goings of the last few months, he was low. Very low.
One thing was for sure, he had no more ideas. His energies for life were all used up on the efforts he had made throughout his life’s journey and, here, in this decade of his life, he had finally come to a standstill. He had run out. In more ways than one.
The black water looked menacing and cold. It flowed slowly and silently round and round, yet if he stopped to listen he could hear it’s siren song calling him towards its clammy waters. It was all he could do to resist the water’s damning message.
Yet the stranger had definitely said that it was possible for good things to come out of bad, or even to actively turn bad things into good. “There is always a way” he had said, if you are patient and reach for it.
In despair and the deepest disappoint in himself he had ever known, Davey had finally given up the fight, declaring himself hopeless and the stranger’s words deceptive rubbish. The guy clearly had no idea of how bad bad can be. Bad things into good things? That could only be a platitude. There was no way forward from here. Yet the stranger had said that one day he would find out for himself.
Davey reviewed his life for a few moments. Had he not become a respected scientist? Was he not indeed a competent entrepreneur? So how had it come to this? He had the finest of university educations and been taught by world class professors. He had a caring family, who even now we’re grieving for him in his sadness.
He felt overwhelmed by self pity. As he stared into the black sludgy polluted water he felt hopeless seep through his clothes and into his heart. Good out of bad? This bad? It was all a meaningless cruel joke, and now he would indeed take the next step that would… that would … that … would…
He stopped. A flash of moonlight on something in the water caught his attention. Swirling innocently in the incessant gurgling flow was a little glass bottle complete with its stopper.
In some strange way, it floated clean and sparkling on the surface of the blackness. He felt it was waiting for him, a last chance perhaps, and he knew without doubt he must have it.
It was a long way down to the waters edge, but something in Davey’s heart came alive sufficiently to prompt him to action. Stepping back for a moment from his precarious position (and his self pity) he climbed down to the bank of the putrid pool and reached out. He would need to reach out much further than what was safe for him to rescue the bottle (and maybe himself) from the fate that called them both, but driven by his sudden inexplicable change of mood, he was determined. That little fragile bottle might change his life he thought irrationally. Perhaps it already had. He must have it at all costs.
He reached out, accepting the risks of his new passion, no longer afraid, no longer obsessing about his failings and fortunes, risking being carried away, or sucked into the sludge.
No, it was beyond him. It was out of reach, but for the first time in his life he threw aside his inhibitions and looked around for help.
That was when he saw the stranger just a few yards away who had been quietly watching his efforts all the while, and seemed to read his mind. Unselfconsciously he asked, “Can you help me please? I need that bottle.” The stranger stepped forward and anchoring himself into the bank, grasped Davey’s outstretched hand.
Trusting his weight to this Kind Stranger made the difference. Davey felt the bottle at his finger tips, and with one last stretch, grasped it firmly in his hand. It was his. Looking up he saw, in the moonlight, a glimpse of a smile on the stranger’s shadowed face.
Davey sat for several minutes, still and quiet at the water’s edge, reliving the last few minutes of what had seemed an impossibly challenging day (and the last few years of what felt like an impossibly challenging life.) He took a deep breath, and as he exhaled said to himself, “This moment is a turning point for me. I know it. Life will never be the same again.”
For the first time, in a single moment he had reached out for help, and it was as if all the struggles to achieve, all his efforts to be accepted and loved, all the disappointment and inadequacy no longer mattered.
The magic words had been “help me” and he knew it. He had never asked so blatantly for help before. He had always tried to make it on his own, brought up with the expectation that he should be independent, self sufficient, stand on his own two feet and manage his own affairs.
The very walls he had built to keep himself safe had imprisoned him. He felt a deep sense of love filtering its way into the rocky caverns of his heart; a strange lightness beaming it’s mellow rays into its grey shadows.
And the little glass bottle was here in his hand, rescued from the very waters that he, just a few minutes before … He preferred not to think about that.
It was many years later he told me this story. He was now a wealthy man, with a loving family around him. Things had turned out well. Reaching into his coat, he drew out the little glass bottle, complete with its stopper…
…and a crumpled, stained, scrap of paper.
“This is what was in the bottle” he said, passing it to me. “I just accepted what it says, and that has made all the difference”.
I smoothed out the paper and felt my own heart leap. There on the paper were the very words I had so longed to hear as a child – and actually through all these demanding and challenging years of life. As I read them over and over, I could feel them washing me too, cleansing and healing me to the very core.
And I accepted them.