Memories Of Kindness
We've all experienced being at either the receiving end or the giving end of acts of kindness. World Kindness day reminds us of how rewarding and impactive even the smallest acts of kindness can be. Kindness is a rare and original human gift. Let's celebrate it.
Its World Kindness day today and this sent me of on a trail of memories of moments of kindness. One recent kindness memory happened over this summer whilst on holiday in Barbados. Three women who had been dining in the same restaurant I was also in stopped me as I was leaving the restaurant to tell me how fantastic they thought my hairstyle was. Their comments took me by surprise as at a first glance we were like chalk and cheese in terms of age, race and dress sense. We all started laughing as they tripped over one another trying to tell me how they had spent most of the time at dinner admiring my style.
What this group of strangers didn’t know was how affirming their words were. Because at the time I was struggling with a receding hairline caused by years of wearing my hair upright like a pyramid in head wraps. As they all spoke I could see the light in their eyes gleaming as they appreciated my new hair do. There was as much a joy in the telling as there was in my receiving.
Those words and act of kindness stayed with me for weeks to come much like it did for Mark Twain who said, “I can live two months on a good compliment.” These women strangers to me would not have known how close I had come to cutting of my twenty five year old locks and the stress I have been going through knowing I had unconsciously caused such a dramatic loss to my hair line.
Their comments to me that day quickly surfaced another memory of kindness strangely enough to do with my hair. This time it was to acknowledge the compassion and care with which my new Barbadian hairdresser who days before on my holiday had skillfully coloured my hair in a salon bristling with young beauticians, meticulously groomed and pimped like peacocks with plenty to say about everything and everyone. Sensitive to my own self-consciousness about my receding hairline she discretely covered the front of my hair as she tended to the vulnerable area ensuring that it wasn’t on full show for the prying eyes.
Such kindness from strangers runs deep. You can’t put money on that kind of kindness. Whilst is costs nothing to be kind what its worth to the receiver is priceless.
My kindness memories began to take on a momentum of it’s own. Not long after those two incidents this time on the streets of London a stranger allowed me to share his cab with him across Waterloo bridge after the bus we were both travelling on was diverted away from where we both needed to get to in a hurry. Oh, did I mention that he insisted on covering the fare.
Such kindness knows no bounds. Over the course of my life I can recall many examples where I was on the receiving ends of acts of kindness. From the woman who despite a packed train carriage of Friday night commuters from London to Sheffield with standing room only could see that I was ill and about to faint. She reached across a throng of people to catch me just in time before I slumped. Or the recent gift from a colleague of the most exquisite tree decorated earrings she’d found in Seattle and purchased for me just because she knew how much I love of trees.
As well as being the recipient of acts of kindness I’ve also done my fair share. There was the incident years ago with the young girl at Oxford street tube station who was in a heated discussion with a member of staff that from where I stood threatened to turn ugly. Turns out she was travelling at the wrong time of the day for transporting bicycles across the London underground and had tried to get back on to head home and had been prevented from doing so.
My intervention worked, as by the end of our time together the guard had agreed to accompany the young woman across the network outside of the permitted time so she would not be penalized. That same staff member wrote to me a week later to thank me for getting involved and to apologise for his behaviour.
Then there was the time when I made my partner turn the car around because I noticed a man by his car with a child and a petrol can at his side looking at a loss. My hunch was right. He had run out of petrol. We dropped him and child to the petrol station filled up the can, returned to the car and sent them on their way. It was reassuring to see the young girls smile as she realized we had stepped in to lend a helping hand.
Months later by sheer coincidence I had just gotten back into my car and turned on the radio when I heard the presenter announce that the show was all about people phoning in to share stories of random acts of kindness.
As I started to pull off I heard the voice of a young man on air describe running out of petrol on Acre Lane in South London and how two women had stopped and helped him and his daughter out. His final words were I would love to thank her. I couldn’t believe it. I ended up phoning in and he got to thank me live on air. It was one of those moments of perfect, holy synchronicity.
Today what will your random act of kindness be?