“Do what makes you feel good and it will draw more of that into your life.” (The Secret, Rhonda Byrne)
While I was still doing research for my travels, I came across the book, The kindness of strangers (Lonely Planet Anthology), in the travel section of a bookshop. I paged through the book and read some of the stories, but, due to budget constraints decided not to buy it. The notion that a random stranger’s act of genuine kindness could make such an impact on a person, stuck with me.
My Indian visa application was frought with problems (a whole blog post needs to be dedicated to it), and, created a huge amount of stress for me. So, needless to say, when I finally arrived at the visa application office in Kuala Lumpur, I was relieved to just sit in the queue outside the building and wait for the doors to open. As I was looking through my application forms (to kill time), I realised that I had forgotten to include the address of the hotel in India where I would be staying – a vital bit of information for the application. The address, of course, was in an email, that I had no way of accessing at that very moment, as there was not an internet cafe in sight. I turned to the guy sitting next to me, to ask him if he knew of an internet cafe closeby (because if I did not apply on that day, I might never get my visa in time for my flight to India) – of course there was none. And then, this stranger did the most incredible thing – he simply took his laptop out of his briefcase, turned it on, went online and handed it over to me. I don’t know how you thank someone for such an act of kindness – we did not even exchange names, and I did not see him and his wife after we entered the building – but, I expressed my gratitude as best I could, and will never forget that moment.
When I’m busy, or stressed, or consumed with my own life, selfless acts of kindness are often not at the top of my priority list. I admire people who give so genuinely of themselves without ever expecting anything in return. And, I’ve learnt from them, more than they will probably ever know.
I now live in a small community where the focus is on the quality of life and the value of people. People turn up at my door with biscuits, olive oil, lemons, homemade wine and marmalade, flowers for the garden, sealant for the roof, they wave when they pass me in the street, offer me a ride if I’m walking somewhere, or simply ask me how I’m doing. I’m learning about the importance of selfless acts of kindness and I finally understand that “energy flows where attention goes.” If I focus my attention on kindness and love and giving (whether its a smile, my time, or a cup of coffee) – the energy that comes from that is remarkable.
The idea for this post came to me when Babi, the local mechanic, made me a cup of Greek coffee while I was waiting for him to fix my car. I was suddenly struck by the kindness of his gesture. He was overworked, affected by the current economic crisis in Greece and constantly interrupted with phone calls and people stopping by so that he could fix something ‘quickly’. And, here I was, sitting in his ‘waiting room’ reading and he still stopped everything to make me a cup of coffee. Maybe its simply Greek hospitality, but, right now I choose to see the kindness of his act.
“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in… love is the only truly rational act.” (Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom) When you’re away from home, and wandering around in the wide world – without much security and no form of income, its the acts of kindness that remind you of the good in the world. Ever since I left South Africa, friends, relatives and recent acquaintances have taken me into their homes, provided me with transport, moral support, travel guidance, meals, many cups of tea, endless emails, skype conversations and text messages. This is a big thank you to all of you – this journey would not have been possible without your kindness.