Friday, May 14, 2010

Uncommon Kindness

"I don't know that man. I think he shook my hand because he has me confused with someone else," I said to my mother.

"Maybe," she replied.

"What do you mean," I asked.

"Well people are so starved for kindness here that he was probably just happy to see you greet him with a smile, and for no reason," she said.

This interaction happened a quite a few months ago. I thought through my mother's comments and have come to see the wisdom of her insight.

The man I had greeted was an elderly gentleman who had just completed his grocery shopping.

He was leaving and we were entering the grocery store. He looked at me and I just automatically smiled and said hello.

Since that encounter I have had a couple more instances where someone extended their hand after a cheerful greeting from me.

Perfect strangers each time.

This morning before going to work I returned a defective DVD player to a mega-store knowing that my mission was going to be testy.

I was ready.

Anyway, the electronics guy started in telling me that I needed to prove that the machine was faulty.

"Bring us the DVD that won't play in it," he said.

I looked at him in disbelief.

This is not the usual customer service I grew accustomed to at mega stores like Best Buy in the US.

In Mzansi everyone is deemed to be a crook and customer service is mostly non-existent.

"Would I be wasting my time coming here three weeks after buying this player if there was no reason to bring it back," I asked the mostly disinterested man.

"Well we can't just change it because it may be the fault of the people where you rent DVDs, they hire out multi-region titles and they don't work on this machine," he said.

"You can't be serious. So you want me to rent a few more and when they don't work I should bring them in too so you can exchange the machine?," I asked persistently.

He looked puzzled for a moment. "I see what you saying let me see if we have a DVD to put in it."

For about ten minutes the man struggled to connect the DVD player to the TV they had on display.

He grew irritated and clicked his tongue and then gave up.

"I'll be back," he said.

He returned in less than a minute and directed me to customer service for a refund.

I am annoyed but relieved.

The customer service cashier attending to me then asks me for one rand so that he can refund me the total amount in paper money.

"I do not have coins on me," I say to him.

He looks perplexed. "You have no coins at all," he asks without looking at me.

At this point a young man standing behind me reaches over and puts down a one rand coin (less than 15 US pennies) onto the counter.

The cashier picks it up without looking at either of us.

I turn to the man and extend my hand thanking him kindly. "I am going to owe you money now," I say.

"Oh don't worry about it, it's nothing and it's my pleasure hey," he replies.

His kindness catches me off guard.

"Thank you so much for your kind gesture, it is very uncommon," I say.

"Not around here you are right. But no problem you are absolutely welcome hey," he beams back at me.

As I walk away I am buzzing with energy. My hurried legs carry me to a stationery store on the other side of the mall where I buy a newspaper for the purpose of getting change in coins.

I'm in reflex mode. I want very much to return the young man's money.

I start running in the direction of our encounter and look for him but can't find him.

Disappointment creeps over me but something presses me to keep looking.

I see a young white man standing in front of an ATM who looks like it may be him but I'm not sure and do not approach him.

A few minutes later walking to my truck I see the same man again and he looks my way and smiles.

I recognize him now. His smile and kindness become apparent again.

I walk over toward him as he is tipping a car guard.

"Thanks once again for your kindness," I say as I extend my hand with the coin.

"Oh that is absolutely not necessary," he says with a smile.

"You give me hope for humanity. You are a good man," I say while walking away.

I'm having a good day in a time and place filled with a lot of uncaring, selfish, and disinterested people.

This morning a perfect stranger acted otherwise and renewed my hope in humanity, if even for just today.



Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this post!

May you have plenty more 'just today'.....s

Peace to you too, Bash

Ridwan said...

Thanks so much Bash.

Yeah I am still beaming from yesterday despite being at work to invigilate an exam.

I wish you much happiness of the 'today' kind too.

Hola back when you can.

Peace Bash.

Dade said...

Excellent post. It shows how starved we all are for kindness. And it shows how small acts of kindness, in aggregate, can make big differences!

Keep smiling, brother!

Ridwan said...

Thanks brother Dade!

Act of kindness of the random kind can make a difference.

Peace to you.


pserean said...

this Was a lovely post.
its always a gorgeous discovery - to find the divine in some tiny 'insignificant' encounter.
and more often than not, its just a smile.
so much wisdom in that hadeeth- that to smile is the smallest of charity.
(words to that effect, i know.)

as for not wanting to owe someone, whilst i completely understand that...i think..that sometimes. no. quite takes a lot of graciousness and kindness to receive something:)
to remain in debt and keep the burden of that good dead with you.
i think it can be a good thing- that lopsidedness.

Ridwan said...

Thank you ever so kindly pserean.

You are right about holding that deed and debt (lopsidedness) ... and passing it on in kindness too.

Thanks for reading and adding value and depth to my thinking here.