Acts of kindness

In her enthusiasm to meet a friend she spotted at the church, the lady sitting next to me walked away swiftly at the end of the prayer service, one sunny morning. Within a few seconds, a gentleman sitting behind reached onto to the bench, looking for something.

Perturbed, I enquired what he was up to. “The lady has forgotten her house key.  See?” he showed me the key chain left behind on the bench and sprang out enthusiastically to hand the key back to her. It was a simple act of kindness from a stranger to a fellow human being, quite similar to the one I experienced a few years back.

I was returning to Bangalore with my two kids, after a short visit to Chennai.  The train which was scheduled to leave at 5.30 pm got cancelled due to the derailment of an earlier train. The announcement of the cancellation was made an hour later and as one can imagine, soon all hell broke loose. We were asked to collect the refund of the tickets immediately and make alternative travel arrangements. With two small kids, I dragged my luggage and made my way to the refund counter. To my utter dismay, a long queue was already formed.

I had decided to take an alternative mode of transport and that required me to leave the railway station in the next half hour. Therefore I weighed the option of foregoing the refund.  But on second thoughts I approached the cashier, explained my problem and requested him to consider my refund, though out of turn.  “Sorry madam, you have to join the queue.  But why don’t you appeal to the person behind explaining your predicament. If she permits, I will give you the refund,” he said empathetically. To my surprise, the lady whose turn it was for the refund, eyed me sympathetically and nodded her approval to allow me to go ahead of her. I collected my refund, feeling truly gratified.

Such random acts of kindness from strangers indeed draw much admiration. It is however interesting to note that the benefactors of such kind acts feel as much contented as the beneficiaries themselves.  Alan Luks in his book, “The healing power of doing good,” says that helpers always reported a distinct physical sensation when being kind. They reported feeling more energetic, warm and greater self-worth, a phenomenon he calls the “helper’s high”.  A new theory called, “Survival of the nicest,” confirms this idea. The philosophy attributes the prosperity of the human race as a species to this quality of being kind. No wonder ‘The 14th Dalai Lama’ of Tibet once said, “My true religion is kindness!”

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