Little Acts of Kindness
The other day in the early morning while going for a local purchase in our locality in my two wheeler, two vehicles came in the opposite direction and caused a block on our narrow road. One was an auto-rickshaw with passengers and the other was a white sedan driven by a lady. The autorickshaw driver alighted from the vehicle and directed the lady to go in reverse and forward to get it out of the mess. But, a two wheeler cart with two long handles used by a labourer for moving bricks and sand was in the way and parked in front of a house. They were trying all possible means to take the car ahead without hitting the auto-rickshaw or the cart. I thought it was a meaningless exercise. I pulled the cart to the nearby house as the gate was open and the car could easily move along. I wondered why a few people witnessing the scene or the auto driver never thought of this simple solution even as I heard some people blaming the poor labourer for creating the problem! I was even more surprised as the lady simply drove away and didn't down the windows to say 'thanks.'
Since my school was nearby we used to walk in the morning and evening. There was a steep road in between my house and school and once a fish seller with heavy load of fish in the carrier of his bicycle alighted just before the start of the steep road. He asked me to push the cycle from the back with one hand so that it will be less strain on him till he reached the top from where the road is flat. I was a bit embarrassed of passers-by looking at me but out of kindness I helped him and the fish seller thanked me. However, as I reached the school, our Principal was standing near the main gate and asked me why I am coming to school wearing a soiled shirt. That is when I noticed the liquid and solid stains that had fallen from the fish basket of the seller whom I tried to help! Alas, our strict and disciplinarian Principal was not someone who will hear my stories of kindness and he felt I had gone to play even before coming to school.
Once while going in our car along with my wife in our native town of Trivandrum, a motorbike hit the front bumper of our vehicle as the rider lost control in a curve. It was clearly the mistake of the bike rider and he fell down along with his bike. Our first reaction was to get out and shout at the bike rider for his carelessness. However, what he said really moved us. "It may be my fault. Now my knees are bleeding, will you first get me the first aid kit and a bottle of water? ." Who knows he might have been affected by the daily stress and strains of living and might have gone absent minded for a while.
AG Gardiner in his essay 'On Saying Please' pointed out that simple expressions of gratitude such as 'thank you' and apologies such as 'sorry' or 'excuse me' can go a long way in building good relationships and contributing to happiness of all. He narrates the story of a lift-man sending away a passenger from the lift for being impolite. While we cannot justify the lift man, Gardiner says it was the impolite behaviour of the passenger that started the trouble. He says that bad manners are more poisonous than other crimes.
We had Moral Science classes at school and I felt the better performing classmates were never serious about it as it was not counted in the rankings in Progress Report. I felt I learnt anything really useful in life or what we call 'life skills' only from those lessons taught in a preaching mode by teachers! And now Delhi schools have become a role model to the world in implementing the 'Happiness Curriculum' and I hope instilling the virtues of kindness and love are embedded in it. Most often people do charity or philanthropy to gain publicity but never help out some one in distress whom they encounter on the road or in public places nor offer a ride or 'lift' in their vehicle when they most need them. As in most other simple lessons in life, kindness is a virtue that a child should learn from the family itself.