independent

Saturday 30 August 2014

Acts of kindness, no matter how small, are never wasted

Published 27/03/2013 | 05:28

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IN TENNESSEE Wiiliam's 'A Streetcar names Desire' (one of my all time favourite films), Vivien Leigh's character dramatically announces how she has 'always depended on the kindness of strangers'.

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Now this may have worked well for the beguiling Blanche DuBois, but there are times when you wonder how nourished you would be in today's 'civilised'society if you were to rely on the milk of human kindness.

And then something comes along to restore your faith in mankind.

Take two weeks ago for instance.

A lovely lady called me to the front counter of the paper and asked would I be able to help her with a little mystery.

You may have read the small news item I wrote for her, about a Christmas Card that was sent to her elderly aunt's house in error, and that particular elderly lady was anxious to have it reunited with its rightful home.

You see, the Christmas card had a small sum of money inside, and this was enough to warrant more than one sleepless night for the woman, worrying it would never reach its ultimate destination, and therefore go very ungratefully received.

To cut a long story short, we found the correct address, and the card (plus financial gift) and owner have been reunited, and finally the uncle in England can be thanked (and he can add his Irish relatives back onto his Christmas card list)!

Our heroine could have easily chucked the card in the bin and pocketed the money.

No one would have been any the wiser.

But thank God there are still good-hearted and honest people in the world, who will go that extra mile to be kind to a stranger.

And that's when I got to thinking whether we are just not tuned in to the everyday kindness that is shown by people we barely know.

Sadly it would seem that the human default setting seems to be permanently stuck on mistrust, and that any display of manners or altruism is greeted with surprise or indeed even suspicion.

What is expected in return, or what's the catch?

We all know there's no such thing as a free lunch.

But since solving the little Yuletide puzzle, I have since heard several more tales of unbidden kindnesses, none of which sought reward or recognition.

From wallets returned with contents intact, to accommodation paid for, or tea and sandwiches bought for a knight of the road, there are times when it lifts your own spirit to learn that not every person is solely looking out for number one.

There was a book a few years ago (I believe it was made into a movie with Kevin Spacey) called 'Pay it Forward', with the basic premise that if each of us does one random act of kindness to a stranger, who then 'pays it forward' to someone else, the world would be a much nicer place.

Sounds idealistic, but not altogether unachievable if we could all change our mindset to a new way of thinking.

Psychologists have spent years on coming to the (perhaps obvious) conclusion that doing something nice for another person makes you feel good, not just physically but mentally, and yet all too often we keep this free gift to ourselves.

I'll leave you with some foor dor thought for you to mull over.

What was the last random act of kindness you did for someone?

If you have to struggle to remember, maybe it's time you did another one.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

Drogheda Independent

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