Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Little acts of kindness

Yesterday I was waiting at the end of the small road in our colony. The road leads to the main road and one has to wait a long time to cross the main road due to the packed traffic during peak hours. And then I saw a blue Santro slowing down and the driver signaled to me to cross the road. Absolutely taken aback at his gesture I drove into the main road and crossed it, stopped the bike and waved a thanks to the guy. He waved back and drove off. I was so touched with this gesture that I could only stare stupidly at his receding back!

Last week I was crossing the road in front of my house and I saw a car coming in full speed down the road. I stopped ready to turn back but the moment the car driver saw me, he slowed down, stopped and gestured to me to cross. I said a thank you and crossed the road. He drove off but he left a very grateful girl on the road.

This has happened to me several times while crossing the road on foot or on bike. People have actually stopped and given way knowing that I am waiting for a pause in the traffic to cross the road. Some have even held up traffic for pedestrians like me. And none of them tried to act fresh or over friendly. They just did their small act of kindness and moved on. I remember every single incident because it made a big impression on me. Random acts of kindness from random strangers.

Many a times I am surprised by guys holding the door open for me. People who feel that they should hold the door for a lady unlike the twits who bang the door on your face.

What makes these people so different from others? Why do some guys try to mow you down or speed up when they see you crossing the road while others slow down to help you along?

When you are so used to an insensitive and callous world, such random acts of kindness leaves lasting impressions on you! Today as I drove to office I saw an old lady trying to cross the road. I stopped the car and she smiled gratefully and crossed the road. I thought nothing of it. Then it occurred to me with a bang that I had done the same thing that others had done for me. I guess it was because I realized the difficulty of crossing a road during peak hour traffic. Perhaps it is realization of others predicaments that makes people help them, because they themselves have been in the same situation.

I hate doors being left to swing on my face. So I make sure I hold the door till it closes. It is when you put yourself in other peoples shoes that you appreciate their position. And these Samaritans who helped me cross the road or held the door open for me were such people. What makes them sensitive and the rest insensitive? Have you observed your maid servant? If she is taking home some food and finds another maid going home without food, she will give her some of hers. That’s because she has experienced days when she did not get left overs and maybe had to do with a bun or a banana.

Being kind to a fellow stranger requires great sensitivity I guess. Or maybe just observational powers and motivation. I have never understood why some people can understand other peoples predicament having been in their shoes once, while others completely miss it.

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thomas said...

A soothing post!

This is off the tangent but some time back, when after college i walked to the bus stop i saw a 50 rupee note lying on the road. I took it and kept it in my pocket. When i got down at my stop and started walking home, an old woman approached me and asked whether i could spare her some money; she hadn't eaten anything all day. I didn't care whether she was lying or not, i just took the 50 rupee from from my pocket and gave her. As i walked home, i felt a different kind of satisfaction and thought that maybe God made me take that money from the road just to be an intermediary b/w the money and that lady. I still cherish remembering that incident for some reason.

നിലാവ് said...

Very true Silverine.

mathew said...

There is nothing thats more priceless and gratifying than helping a stranger without expecting in return..bet it a simple act of allowing the person to cross the road or feeding a poor man...If there is any happiness it is there..and I am glad to have felt it.

Wannabe Deep Shitter said...

some ppl r conscious when it comes to these 'little acts of kindness'.. some do it in reflex.. but however they do it, they r indeed leaving a mark in us.. passing us a piece of their character..

we can see this not just in the door held open or in the stopped car.. this random little acts of kindness is everywhere if we are willing to look for it..

we can see that in the traffic when ppl keep on blowing the horn for nothing but that one person just pass on a smile making us feel we are not alone in the suffering..

we can hear it in when that busy executive in the subway joint spilled some tomato sauce on the floor and was willing to apologize the cleaning guy for the trouble he caused..

all we have to do is to open up more.. to stop looking for the cars that ignore our waiting and speed past us and see the one person who will in fact stop for us..

Sriram said...

really nice post.. I always hold doors open whenever someone is behind. People who aren't used to it being done to them feel really grateful and you can see it in the smile that they return.
It's true what you said that in a world which is becoming more insensitive by the day, we feel so surprised at these little acts of kindness. After all, these gestures are what transcend boundaries and make us all humans.

scorpiogenius said...

Do you think its always r/t 'kindness' alone? Its basic manners, to be precise, and needs to be inculcated in every growing child.

What you've explained about road manners is mandatory in Western countries. In Switzerland the pedestrians always have preference, unless it is an expressway. Well, and you dont jump across the asphalt if the signal is red, yeah? ;) You are taught to respect others, especially women; and I find its a part of the culture here. You always open the door for a women and dont slam it into her face. If you do it the otherway, you are considered extremely rude and bad mannered...So it is elementary, kindness has a different and bigger meaning Silverine.. :))

It all boils down to how you are educated. When I was a kid our PT Master had us all trained to walk only through the footpath leading to the school, obey and respect National Anthem, and to respect your opponents on a playing turf. I still find it uneasy to walk off footpaths but never understood the pedestrians rights. You learn bits and pieces while growing up but some aspects you never learn...its not my, your or others fault.

Vivek Menon said...

very touching..it's nice to be sensitive to others..and "what goes around comes around..!!"

silverine said...

Tom: Thanks! :) That reminds me of a 100 rupees I got selling off old newspapers/scrap and the very next moment some people came for collections for St Mary's feast. They were feeding the poor they said..and did too. I gave that 100 rupees to them. And I couldn't help but ponder like you did on the coincidence!

Nilav: :)

Mathew: It actually makes you feel good! I guess some people are not taught these things or they would be more sensitive.

Calvin: "passing us a piece of their character" That is so true. I know someone in my office who started saying thank you to the staff after watching others. :)

Sriram: I think your schooling also influence you. As a Loyolite I am not surprised that you are a fine young gentleman! :)

Scorpiogenius: Unfortunately I live in Bengalooru and not Europe! :p Here people will speed up to intimidate you when you cross the road as they don't like to apply brakes and want uninterrupted right of way on the road. My non Xian classmates always remarked how their stint in the convent made them more sensitive people. So schools do matter.

Vivek: Thank you! :)

DD said...

Does not always work out though. I usually stop for such pedestrians or senior citizens/kids, whenever possible...I have had a couple of experiences with elderly gentlemen who refuse to cross the road even if I stop my car for them, they ask me to drive by first and then stand and figure out a way to cross the road, dunno why they just act pissed. Maybe they had a fight with their better halves or kids or sthg, or maybe they are just not used to this kind of gestures (P.S. I am talking abt Chennai)

~ ॐ ~ said...

Random acts of kindness make my hope stay afloat !!!

very nice to read this post !

Sriram said...

Thanks :D
Yes, my school made me what I am. We had this farewell day and I wanted to make a speech then.. your words reminded me of how I ended it - "I walked into this campus a timid five-year old.. I walked out a Loyolite, proud to be one.. and above all, a gentleman"

silverine said...

Deepak: I think I know why they do that. See you gave him way, but traffic would be flowing behind you. He can see that and knows he will encounter that after he is crossed your bike. He will cross when the whole road is clear. :)

Om: Very true! Nice to see you buddy! :)

Sriram: Awwwww! That was so sweet!!

skar said...

Let me quickly summarise my thoughts leaving out the crux for people to ponder:

There are three acts of kindness:
1) Subconscious, or arising from habits inculcated in one.
2) Conscious and out of a sense of 'duty' to alleviate pain.
3) Conscious and because it gives one happiness, i.e., out of vanity.

Anonymous said...

Its the same thing as with good and bad. Why some people are good but then it doesnt apply to all. But I think there could be a difference if some of us were just stopped and reminded about these little acts that matter so much, cause they dont mean to be unkind; in their busy lives they just dont have place for all that, they simply forget. Everyone wants to be somewhere so fast they dont think about the others they see on the way and I dont just mean the road-gestures.

scorpiogenius said...

Yes Silverine...SCHOOLS DO MATTER...

And interesting to note the commentor dd's experience...What will we do now? Brake or drive on..?? :P

Macadamia The Nut said...

Its amazing to cross paths with such people... and then again, its sad to think that the world is so full of jerks that such small acts of kindness have become rare commodities.

Mind Curry said...

its so satisfying to see the surprised but grateful look on people when they witness a small li'l act of kindness from your end when they least expect it. i think thats the whole essence of being a good humanbeing.

Unknown said...

good post!

Have been in similar situations. As to why some people try to mow you down while others treat to kindness.... I guess it all boils down to the testosterone level....:D

On a more serious note, yes people who are disadvantaged help more since they themselves know what it is to be disadvantaged. Great piece of writing.

Sham said...

When i read this remember and feel sad for the young lad who died in the recent delhi blast trying to help the motorcyclists.


Nice post....restores your faith in human beings..

silverine said...

Karthik: Good points. But there is surely more of it!

ms cris:I believe that sensitizing helps. Schools do a great deal in this regard. You are right that some people dont do it on purpose.

Scorpiogenuis: Loyola? :) Reg DD's exp, old people are nervous. They cannot cross the road when you tell them to. Only when they feel safe. So do break and stop if you see them, if they dont take the offer move on. We have to give additional consideration to oldies...whom I just love. They
are cho chweet :p

Macademia: Absolutely spot on.

MC: Your comment reminded me of an incident in Church last year. I was standing in line for Communion. A heavily pregnant lady was ahead of me. A minister from M'lore, name starting with "O" suddenly barged in, brushed against the lady while cutting the que and went ahead to receive communion. If I had not caught the lady, she would have crashed into the benches. It happened quickly, most people did not notice. Such people also sensitize you to good people and their good deeds :)

Abraham: Testosterone levels...I guess that's one explanation, because women never do such things...at least I haven't seen them doing it :)

Sham: That was tragic and very unfair!!

Raji: You know, with this IT proliferation, people are actually changing due to the atmosphere they work in. :)

phoenix said...

I am glad that the post on 'disturbing trends in blogging' is back!