Sunday, 18 August 2013

Random Acts of Kindness

The sun was barely peeking over the nearby buildings when I got downtown to wait for my connecting bus. There were four of us at the stop. Myself, as usual, clutching a pen and jotting ideas and dialogue in a notebook; a man staring disinterestedly at the road; and two older woman leaning against a brick wall, smoking and chatting with each other.

A young couple in their early twenties walked up to them. The  man asked if they had a lighter he could borrow and the one of the ladies, wearing a uniform from a national doughnut store chain, reached into her purse and handed it to him. She commented on how glad she was he hadn't asked for a cigarette, she was getting asked all the time and couldn't afford to give them to everyone, she could barely afford them for herself.

The four of them commiserated briefly about the price of smokes and how frequently people asked for them these days then the young couple turned to walk away. They took one step then the man turned back and asked, "Do you play the lottery?"

The woman looked confused, then nodded and agreed that she played when she could. He smiled, told her today was her lucky day, and handed her a crisp new twenty dollar bill, before walking away. She stared after him in astonishment, barely managing to stammer thanks.

I think, when random acts of kindness are mentioned, we end up thinking we can't do much. The little we can offer is just a pittance. After all, when you get right down to it, what could twenty dollars do?

I got on the bus with that lady, who was quite overcome by the money. She was in the last week of her job, going on sick leave in a few days. She's suffering from severe pain caused by bone growths in her knee and just can't handle working eight hours on her feet anymore. All that helps is expensive pain medication. She'd just run out and didn't have enough money to buy her new prescription. That $20 covered the gap.

I don't know how that young man felt when he handed her the money. Hopefully pride that he was able to help but he'll never know how much it meant to her. All he heard was her startled "thanks" before he walked away. It was the people on the bus who discovered how much this meant to her, not him.

That's the thing about random acts of kindness. You don't know. You have no idea what it means to the person you reach out to. It might mean nothing but then again, it might mean the world. It's random. I think the most important part is to reach out and do the best you can with what you have. We're all a candle in the darkness and it's up to us to share our flame.

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