The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

The kindness of others

on February 5, 2015

There are times I read something in the news that overwhelms me so much I have to say out loud to Husband, ‘What’s the point?’.

By which I mean the trivialities of the mundane aspects of daily life that can sometimes annoy us so much and not what’s the point in living.

It can’t have escaped your attention recent world events depicting the extreme acts of violence that people are capable of. I’m not wishing to talk about the politics of it all or make a blanket statement of just how barbaric human nature can be.

I was momentarily at a loss thinking about just how vastly different we live our lives across the world. The women who have no voice and the girls who have no right to an education. The abject poverty and the hardships of day to day living experienced by many. The existence of human trafficking, sexual, physical and psychological abuse and the thousands who live in a permanent war zone.

Imagine making a list of all the ills in the world.

Why am I even talking about this when it makes for depressing reading? I don’t wish to bring you down and neither do I want to say think how lucky we really are and stop your complaining about this, that and the other. We shouldn’t feel guilty about the lives we do lead but we can be mindful of leading it well.

All around Singapore I have come across billboard posters highlighting how we, the general public, can show random acts of kindness. Do one kind act a day. The Singapore Kindness Movement was set up in 1997 after the then Prime Minister made a New Year address that expressed the need for considerate social behaviour coupled with a strong economy and good government that will make Singapore a good home for all.

Well, from my own experience I can say there’s still some way to go, especially on the roads and in queues but I don’t fear any retaliation on the occasions when I have made a point of plain, rude behaviour. Three years ago Husband and I passed by a late night lion dancing competition after having been out for dinner. Two youths were taking the piss out of some bloke who was enthusiastically applauding the event whilst onlookers around us just looked on. It incensed me when I realised what was going on. In no uncertain terms I told the two youths exactly how deplorable their actions were and what I should have said is how shameful it was that the people around us didn’t say anything either. Of course I was lucky not to get my own face smashed in for interfering and the fear of that is what is stopping us from making a stand against such behaviour.

But that aside, I initially thought it was twee having to be reminded to give up your seat for someone who may need it more instead of pretending they’re invisible or that you’re asleep. Do you really need to be told to move down the carriage to let more people on and is it such a hardship that you have to take your own food tray back to the designated cleaning areas in the hawker centres.

To me that seems like common sense. Why wouldn’t you offer your seat to someone who needs it more. Help someone who is struggling or just be kind and smile and ask someone how they are if they look down but not in that vacant ‘Have a nice day’ sort of way. If you’re going to show kindness then you also need to commit to what may follow. Sometimes you may wish you hadn’t asked as a whole barrage of woes that aren’t really woes come tumbling out. Other times, it can make a real big difference when someone notices that you need a listening ear.

And it’s quite true that an act of kindness does make you feel good. Not that this is wholly what people show kindness for.

When people you know show you kindness, it’s a lovely warm feeling and it helps to make you feel loved, supported and cared for. You also know that somewhere along the line there will be opportunities for you to reciprocate.

But what of the times when random strangers show you acts of kindness when really they don’t need to. Not just helping you out of a tricky spot whilst clambering onto a bus with buggy and multiple children in tow or holding the door open instead of letting it slam in your face and again with buggy and multiple children in tow.

A couple of things happened to me in the last few weeks that made me very happy and very appreciative. They weren’t the huge save my life events but they were just things that they didn’t need to do. I’ve been running at the weekends and some distance too so that by the time I’ve finished, I really want to have a coffee and something to eat whilst I sit and regroup before heading home. One weekend run I unknowingly lost my snack money whilst I pulled my ipod out of my pocket. I ordered a much needed coffee and bagel before realising I had no means of paying for it. The person behind the counter with only a moment’s hesitation, decided to waiver the $11.20. I really did think that was very nice and I did go back to pay for it later.

The other time was a few days later when I decided at the last minute to go and watch the latest The Hunger Games film. The problem with having a multitude of bags is that you sometimes forget which one of them is hiding your wallet. So again I arrive at the cinema, buy a ticket and find I have no means of paying for it. It’s the last day the film is being shown as well. As I scrabble in the bottom of that particular bag for enough coins to pay for the $7 ticket, the person behind the counter goes off somewhere. I finally come up triumphant with my $7 in coinage when she returns, only for her to tell me that I should put my $7 away as she was going to let me use her staff privilege pass. I thought that was very nice too and I felt a warm, fuzzy feeling instead of the disappointment I would have felt otherwise.

I guess what I’m trying to say today is that we can’t change the really terrible big things that happen in the world around us. But as the Singapore Kindness Movement says, we can show small acts of kindness everyday that cost us nothing to make the world closer around us that bit better and a bit more gracious.

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