Saturday, 22 April 2017

Show a Little Kindness

Two people standing next to each other, making a heart shape with their hands

About two weeks ago, I was out shopping. Feeling hungry, I decided to stop for some lunch at McDonald's. It was during the Easter holidays, and it was pretty busy. Almost all the tables were taken. A woman with two children was looking for somewhere to sit. They were going to go into a booth, but it hadn't been cleaned yet. I was sitting at a table for two on my own; to my left, there was another free table for two, and to my right, a pillar with another free table for two next to it. I told the woman I would move to the other table, so she and her children could have the two tables together. Her eyebrows raised, her eyes widened. The woman was surprised by my offer, and so genuinely grateful.

About ten minutes later, another woman was looking for somewhere to sit. There was still very little room available. She looked at the seat opposite me, looked at me, but then continued to look elsewhere. "Excuse me," I said. "This seat is free if you want to sit here." This woman's initial reaction, too, was the raising of her eyebrows, the widening of her eyes. Surprise, shock, followed by grateful smile. We had a quick chat about how busy it was, and continued eating our food.

Later that day, I'm on my way home on the bus. It's not hugely busy, but there are a fair number of people on it. A woman comes on the bus, and at this time, there are no window seats available, and she is going to have to sit next to someone. She looks around, hesitating. Just as she's coming up to where I'm sitting, she looks down at the seat next to me, then up further down the bus. I notice that my undone coat has fallen partially into the seat next to me. I move my coat and shift over a bit, to make sure I'm fully in my seat. The woman realises I'm making room for her to sit down. Again, surprise, then gratitude.

I found it really surprising that each of these women were surprised by my actions. I don't know if it's because I look much younger than I am, and perhaps younger people aren't known for being accommodating. All three of these women were Muslims in hijabs, and perhaps they're not so used to white people being kind. Or perhaps, in general, people just aren't that nice these days.

And that bothers me. These women were surprised that someone was showing them some kindness. That's just terrible. What kind of a world do we live in where the reaction to kindness is surprise? I know in various parts of the world, things are far beyond ideal. We don't live in the kindest of worlds where the people in power are pretty much encouraging that we treat those who aren't the same as us differently. There are so many of us on social media who actively criticise these people. I know we want a more accepting world who treats everyone equally. Which is why it bothered me so much that in one day, three different people were shocked to be shown some kindness.

I just expect better of us, you know? Something I do automatically, without really thinking about it, isn't something others do. And that's not ok. We all talk about wanting the world to be better, but that's got to start with us. Human to fellow human. Showing kindness or compassion. Being friendly and polite. It's not hard. It doesn't cost you anything. And by those ladies' reactions, simply by being nice to someone, you can brighten someone's day.

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1 comment:

  1. I love that you are this way, Jo! I try to be like this too, just offering little bits of kindness where possible. You never know what sort of difference it might make to somebody's day! It is a shame that it's a surprise but, honestly, I think it's to do with the fact that we've all become completely apathetic. Well, a lot of us anyway. It's definitely something we'd do well to snap out of and remember how easy it is to extend the smallest kindness to others! Great post xx