I have a friend called Mary. She lives in Oakland and I have never met her in real life. But in small and rather miraculous ways we try to bring out the best in each other and help work out our fears, limitations, and show each other the things that are hardest to see in ourselves.
We live in a world where it has become easier to file an FIR than it is to give a stranger a compliment. It is easier to complain, whine and find what’s wrong with the system, rather than acknowledge that we are part of the problem and probably part of the solution. Today, we give and take offence easier than we do a smile. And so, Mary and I decided that each day, every day we would perform one good deed or a random act of kindness that would, in some tiny way, put back into the Universe all the good it gave out freely.
As the days passed and I tried to keep my promise best I could, I began to notice things change. Strangers began to stop and ask if I needed a lift anywhere. On the road, drivers gave way. In the canteen, an unknown man whose lunch I’d paid for last week stepped up to buy me lunch on a day I had no appetite and no company. A lady at the store decided to let me have the last yoga mat (she probably decided I needed the exercise more than she did).
So what changed? The world didn’t change in 2 weeks. I was changing. Rather, the way I saw things was changing. I hate to flog a dying cliché, but the Mahatma was right about being the change you see etc. etc. And now armed with this new, and perhaps insignificant understanding of the world, these are some of the things I have learned:
1. If you’re thinking well of someone, tell them. If you’re not, shut up.
2. If you’re eating something sitting next to stranger, offer them some.
3. Older people, pregnant women, and children come first.
4. Don’t take anything personally because it is not always about you. Honestly. People do what they do because of themselves, not you.
5. If you want something, give it.
6. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. Even when they’re not. And especially when they’re not.
One random act of kindness is all it took. Thank you, Mary.