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The kindness of strangers

The kindness of strangers

No random act of kindness (5)

Which character attribute do you prize most in the people with whom you associate?

Honesty? Loyalty? Compassion? Patience? Generosity?

All worthy candidates, beyond a shadow of a doubt. But for me, one character trait stands heads and shoulders above the rest:

KINDNESS. Pure, simple, unadulterated kindness.

 

The effects of even the smallest act of kindness can be significant and far-reaching. Think back to the last time that you were the recipient of a selfless act. Seriously, take a few seconds right here, right now. How were you feeling before and how did you feel after? Chances are that small act of kindness changed the very course of your day.

My life has been immeasurably blessed by the benevolence of friends, family, work colleagues and acquaintances but surely there is nothing more touching and nothing that restores your faith in humanity more than the kindness of a complete and utter stranger. When we serve our friends and family there is often an expectation of something in return (whether we choose to acknowledge it or not!) but when we come to the rescue of someone we do not know and likewise, when a perfect stranger assists us in times of hardship and distress there cannot be any expectation of something in return and as such these acts are the very epitome of altruism. Pure, simple, unadulterated kindness.

I want to tell you about the time when a perfect stranger came to my rescue. Literally. Without his assistance I might still be standing outside Terminal 2 at Heathrow airport. Ok, so I exaggerate. I would have made it back home somehow but what I’m not exaggerating is the relief and gratitude I felt as a result of his actions.

Last summer, as you know if you’ve been following this here blog, I spent a few weeks backpacking around the tropical paradise that is Costa Rica. It’s not cheap, Costa Rica. In fact, it’s probably one of the most expensive countries I’ve visited to date. Keep that in mind should you ever go and budget accordingly. I didn’t. And as a result of poor financial planning and going on one too many horse treks through banana and coffee plantations I ended up in a bit of a pickle upon my return to Heathrow. 

Craigy Boy couldn’t come to pick me up since he was at work so the plan was for me to catch the bus from Heathrow to Oxford and then friends would pick me up in Oxford. Simples. I put my card into the cash machine to withdraw the requisite amount for the bus ticket and… nada. Not a penny. It would seem that me and Costa Rica had maxed out this particular card. Not to worry. I had a spare. Oh wait a minute, GW, that’ll be the credit card that’s floating around somewhere on the remote island of Tortuguero, the one that you lost and had to cancel. DAMMIT! I still wasn’t panicking by this stage, however. I’m the kind of person that freaks out BEFORE a crisis takes place but in the very midst of one I can be quite the oasis of calm I’ll have you know. I like me a problem to solve. 

Next step: call the Oxford Bus Company. That within itself was problematic since my phone had conked out in the first few days of arriving in Costa Rica (couldn’t handle the tropical heat I imagine) and I didn’t have any loose change. And in any case, do pay phones still exist?? I can’t remember the last time I saw one…

I scanned the faces of passers by - I was looking for a kindly one, preferably one with a phone in his/her hand. BINGO!  A kindly looking man with mobile directly ahead! Normally I would attempt to dazzle with my female charm and the flirtatious batting of eyelids but after 16 hours of travel and 30mg of valium the sexy card wasn’t an option. Instead, I walked towards him with the biggest, roundest, most beseeching eyes I could muster. 

I explained my predicament and asked if I could possibly borrow his phone to call the bus company. Despite his phone being registered to Dubai (he was working over there on business) he did not hesitate to let me use it. He was my new best friend already! I wish I could say the same for the lady over at the Oxford Bus Company. She informed me in no uncertain terms that I would not be able to board the bus without paying for the ticket in advance. Company Policy. Maybe she hadn’t heard what I said so I explained again. I reiterated that I had friends meeting me at the other end in Oxford and that they would bring the money to pay for the ticket. Turns out she had heard me perfectly well and that my plight was of little significance to her and the Oxford Bus Company. Shame on you lady and shame on you OBC!! At this point I was becoming tearful. I hung up on that snotty lady, exhausted and frustrated. I get that there are rules and regulations to adhere to but I also believe in exceptions to the rule and assessing each situation individually. In my eyes the world is not back and white. 

I’d almost forgotten about my new friend whose mobile phone I was clutching in my trembling hand. As I turned around to face him he was pulling some bank notes out of his wallet. “How much do you need?”,£20 I told him whilst assuring him that I was a very honest person and that if he could leave me some way to get back in touch with him I would make sure the money was in his account the very next day. No need, he said, as he handed me TWO £20 notes and went on his way. For a few seconds I stood there rooted to the ground, unable to take in what had just transpired. And then I could hold it in no longer. I ran wildly after my kind benefactor yelling “WAAAAAIT!!!” at the top of my voice. He did stop and wait - as did a few other terrified people in the vicinity - and I flung my arms around him, unable to stop the tears from flowing. I told him that he was the kindest man that ever was. He smiled (uncomfortably - I was still wrapped around his waist) and insisted it was nothing. I released my vice like grip and we parted ways. Two strangers briefly united by a random act of kindness.

The thing is, Warriors, kindness begets kindness. In the same way that a pebble creates ripples when thrown into a pond our acts of service, no matter how small, can produce their own waves which continue to spread outwards, uplifting and edifying the lives of others. 

Some people say it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. I don’t agree. I think it’s a beautiful world out there, a world full of good, kind, warm-hearted people, people like you and me. We have the capacity to bring such joy, happiness and light into the lives of our fellow human beings if we’re ready and willing.

So let’s be ready and willing, my Warriors of the World, let us go forth this very week and keep our eyes and hearts open for the opportunity to be a force for good. 

And to you, my perfectly kind and perfect stranger at Heathrow, I want you to know that I think of you often and continue to try and pay your kindness forward.

Ginger Warrior, over and out.

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22 Comments

  1. Some kind soul picked up my smart phone and handed it in at a very busy motorway service station the other day. I was resigned to the loss of said phone but felt I had to ask just in case. Lo and behold, there it was in the safe – I was completely bowled over. Whoever that was – a massive thank you!

  2. Your story is lovely Ceri and I, like you are a true believer in being nice to others. I have been on both sides of these random acts and it is amazing how much it means to people.

    A few years ago I lost my little boy in a very large Tesco store. Any parent knows that you try to remain calm and then you realise that they are not just around the corner. Panic started to set in and I was trying not to look like a crazy lady. Twenty minutes or so went by then out of the blue I heard a voice say ‘don’t worry we will help you find your Mummy’ and a lovely Tesco man had been looking after him. That wasn’t the random act of kindness although the staff were amazing. Through tears of Mummy and Son a lovely lady came up to me and asked if I was alright. I was a bit stuck for words as everyone had been asking (quite rightly) if my son was ok. The she said ‘everyone always makes sure the children are ok but never think that the parents are just as worried’ and she gave me the biggest hug. After blubbering on her shoulder, I then couldn’t stop thanking her. It was a lovely feeling to have someone see if you are ok.

    On the other side of the story. Recently there was a nasty accident involving a cyclist outside the school where I work. Lots of parents that were waiting for their children lept out of cars to assist. I came out of school just after it happened and everything was chaos. After checking if I needed to lend a hand, I saw a girl of about 10 standing there really upset. She said her Mum was helping the man in the accident. Cut a long story short I saw that she was in shock etc. so did my usual teacher thing and started chatting away about school stuff. I had her helping me carrying my things to the car and talked a bit about my school. When all was sorted she went home with her Mum. Thought no more of it until the next day where I got a visit from the Mum to say how grateful her and her daughter were for looking after her during all the chaos.

    I think we should learn from these incidences and people like Stephen Sutton who did random acts of kindness. I now try and help people as much as I can because I would like to think that if I was stuck or in trouble someone would help me.

  3. What. A. Story. And what a man! Loved this my darling and I totally agree. Kindness (together with love) is what makes the world go round.

    Little acts of kindness are everywhere if we look for them and if we create them ourselves. As I say to everyone: “Be kind and do glamour”. With that as a life motto, I don’t think you can really go wrong x

  4. That bought a little tear to my eye and a lump to my throat! Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing GW xoxo

  5. This is brilliant! It’s your kindness that made this happen I am sure. I will promote this in my Embrace Happy Facebook group lovely! You are a treasure.

    Karin

  6. Ceri, I just love you so much!! I did have an act of kindness. I moved out to New York when I was just 18 years old not knowing anyone. I was immediately befriended by a group of girls, including this sassy, ginger from Scotland who became my friend. I miss you so much, and I can’t wait to see you!!

  7. That was so kind! It reminded me of something that happened to me.
    I wasn’t the recipient of this but I helped somebody and not only did it make them feel good but I felt so happy for the rest of the day, I even cried a little bit because of their response!

    Last week I was in the Co-op, in the baking section, and this elderly lady was looking for something and appeared to be getting a little flustered. Normally I would never have spoken to her as I am quite a shy person, but I forced myself to ask her if she was ok. She explained that she was looking for breadcrumbs and couldn’t see up to the top shelves as she was quite short.
    We couldn’t find them in that aisle so I suggested she ask a shop assistant, so off she went. (I don’t think she did ask.)

    I went into another aisle to pick up something and found breadcrumbs on the bottom shelf hidden behind the gravy powder. Without even hesitating I picked up a tub and went around the shop looking for her. When I found her and gave them to her she was so happy! She said to me, “Oh you are a dear, so kind. You don’t get many kind young people nowadays. Thank you, you’ve made my day a whole lot brighter!” We had a hug and then she went off.

    I felt so happy that when I got back in the car I teared up a bit. I love older people, they’re so cute.
    :)

    Let’s spread kindness all over the world GW! :)

    • The Ginger Warrior

      I think we should spread kindness all over the world and it sounds as though you are already doing it, Georgia! :) xxxx

  8. Well, just had to dry my eyes…not a good look sat at my desk “working”!!! Your story Ceri, even though I’d read it before, brought tears to my eyes again, (your turn of phrase is wonderful btw) but then to read the other stories…I’m now a blubbering mess!! Thanks people! Just goes to show that kindness is indeed the most important character trait.
    Have a nice day now y’all xxx

  9. Brilliant. I love that man – and you know what, I bet he felt really pleased he helped you too. I value honesty and the ability to laugh at things, but as you say, genuine kindness is so important and special. My mum is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met – and I’m so proud of her for it.

  10. That’s a lovely story, and like you say if we all approached life like this what a groovy and wondrous world we would be living in.

  11. Like GeorgiaMae (See above) I have been known to get things off top shelves in supermarkets for people. Not a big thing but it never hurts to help someone out. You never know when you might want help yourself.

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