Nolan and I made our way down the dusty road at a comfortable pace, me seated on Faith’s back and Nolan tripping along at my heel. I used to ask him all the time if he wanted to take a turn riding, but he was happy as a lark walking on his own two feet. He also pointed out that he could run faster with the help of the wind than Faith could gallop, and so he was better off on the ground anyways. It had taken just a few trips for me to realize that he was right–he was bursting with so much energy, he wouldn’t have had the patience to sit in a saddle for very long. He was constantly running off the path to look at something interesting, or running ahead to scout out the path, then running back to me until he was out of breath. Faith wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes with a bundle of energy like that on her back.
As we walked, the morning’s peaceful stillness was effortlessly shattered by Nolan’s continuous stream of chatter. He talked about everything. If he heard some news on the wind, he would tell me all about it. If he thought of a story he’d been told recently, he would tell me all about it. If he remembered some random chore he needed to do when we returned home, he would tell me all about it. With Nolan, there was nothing that wasn’t worth saying. And he said it so quickly, it was easy to get confused and lose track of all his stories.
“That’s why the rain’s been low so far this year,” Nolan was saying. “It should get better, the Westwind says, but she’s been wrong before. Remember two summers ago when she said that the corn crop would be fuller than it’s been for years, and then it was worse than it’s been for years? It could be the same thing. She says the rain will come, but maybe it will only get worse. The last thing we need is a drought. You know, he told me about it last time we had one. A drought, I mean. He told me that the rain just wasn’t full enough for him to carry it along. But I doubted him, I’ll admit. We were having so much rain, the fields were flooded in some places. But never doubt the Rain Shaker. Believe me, he’s always right.”
Nolan jogged ahead at that point, something either catching his eye or his ear from over the next hill, and I sighed with faint relief. As much as I loved the guy, the constant talking was a bit much. I just wished we could get to the gypsy tribe faster. The sooner we were there, the sooner I could get my deafness sorted out. The sooner I could go back to normal, and not get so caught up in–
“Hey, Alex!” Nolan called suddenly, looking at me over his shoulder. He was a few metres away, standing at a rise in the road and looking down. I nudged Faith into a short trot to catch up, and then followed Nolan’s gaze.
There was a split in the road ahead, one path veering sharply to the right–the path that led to the gypsy tribe–and the other continuing more or less straight from the track we’d been following. I saw almost immediately what had caught Nolan’s eye–on the straight path, several kilometres away, a group of people were trying to catch a panicking horse. The animal was rearing and kicking, it’s distressed neighing ringing out in the morning air, and the people trying to catch it were making no progress.
“We should help,” Nolan said, beginning to run down the hill.
I stopped him quickly. “Hold up,” I called, and he turned to look at me curiously. “We don’t have time to go help,” I told him. “If that horse breaks out of the circle and runs, it could take all afternoon to find it and catch it again. I want to get to the gypsy tribe by dusk. I’m sure those people will catch the horse soon anyways, without our help. We’ll just get in the way.”
A shadow of displeasure passed over Nolan’s face and he shook his head unhappily. “They don’t have a horse to ride, so if that panicked horse runs, they’ll never catch it. You have a horse. I can run with the wind. We need to go help them.”
“No,” I argued irritably, “what we need to do is get going. We’re wasting time. If we weren’t going anywhere, I would stop to help, but we have things that we need to do, just as much as they do.”
Growling deep in his throat, Nolan said, “Don’t be selfish. They’re about to lose their horse. You aren’t going to lose anything.” With that, he turned and started running again.
“I’m not selfish,” I snapped, angry that he would accuse me of it. Reaching the gypsy tribe meant a lot to me–a stranger’s horse didn’t. As good as Nolan’s intentions were, I wished he would understand that not everyone needed to be helped.
But I wouldn’t leave without him, so I had no choice but to lend a hand. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help, I just wanted to get on with my quest even more. Grudgingly, I kicked Faith on and we cantered down to catch up with Nolan. I just hope they don’t catch that horse before we get there, I thought bitterly, or else this really will be a waste of time.
Do you ever have those moments, where you know that you should help someone but you’re busy doing something else and don’t want to take the time to help out? I hate when it happens, because either way I know I’m going to feel bad about something, whether it be guilt or stress. As long as I’m not in too much of a rush, I generally try to help out. I prefer the stress of delaying my own task to the guilt of not helping somebody else.
When have you helped someone, despite your own needs?
May you always have the patience to help when you can spare the time.