I Thought I Was Just Having Tea, But I Was Really Saving My Life

I’ve been thinking about my last post – about how we can look back on one event, or action of courage or integrity in our life and see how that one act can change everything. This memory popped into my head:

Back in my Montreal days, I was listening to an interview on CBC radio on my way to work when I just knew I was listening to something/someone special (you know that feeling, I’m sure). I pulled over so I could pay attention.

The interviewee was Sir Laurens van der Post, author of many books, storyteller, expert on matters relating to Africa, good buddy and mentor to Prince Charles, and generally an all round interesting guy who had, and then wrote about, his amazing life and travels. (He died at age 90 in 2006).

Some of the exact dates I forget, but he was telling about the time when in South Africa (his birth country), in his late teens, he was having tea at a restaurant he frequented, and observed the owner refusing to serve three Japanese men because of their skin color. He told the owner to serve them or he would never come back.

So, they had tea together, chatted and during the course of the discussion, they invited him to come to Japan and work for them.

“Well”, says Van Der Post, “I was young, nothing better to do, so I did that. I worked, learned the language, and some of the culture, and had a great experience.”

“Flash forward 20 years or so to WWII, I was with the British Army, slogging alone through the jungle one day on an Island in the Dutch East Indies, when several Japanese soldiers dropped from some trees, surrounded me, and were preparing to kill me.”

“My time in Japan came flooding back. I bowed respectfully to them and greeted them with the highest level of greeting (there are levels of greeting), the one which is reserved for greeting the emperor.”

“They were shocked. We talked, got acquainted, and instead of shooting me decided instead to take me prisoner. I survived the war.”

“So, when I thought I was only having tea with three Japanese in the 1920’s in South Africa, what I was really doing was saving my life 20 years later”

For Laurens van der Post, this single action of “doing the right thing” not only gave him the satisfaction of looking back on it years later, it actually gave him the years. It saved his life. Wow, how amazing is that!!??

Be kind to yourself,


About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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