Wednesday, February 1

A culture of kindness and gratitude

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WHILE I was seated in the driver’s seat with the door wide open, my wife was busy taking my wheelchair out from the boot and assembling it. A young man who was walking past looked at my wife and then at me as he walked past.

I became wary. The car park was quiet. No one else was in sight. My heart skipped a beat when he turned back and approached us. I quickly placed my hand on the steering wheel, ready to press the horn to get attention should there be a need.

“Do you need help?” he asked politely.

“Thank you, we can manage,” my wife and I replied in unison.

“Are you sure?” he asked again.

I nodded and mouthed the word “Yes”. He gave us a thumbs up sign, smiled and walked off.

I felt relieved and embarrassed at the same time; embarrassed for being suspicious of someone who was contemplating if we needed assistance and openly offered it. Having read of many cases of people being robbed, car-jacked or even kidnapped in car parks, one cannot be too careful. I am glad he turned out to be a good Samaritan.

It is fortunate that I often cross paths with friendly strangers who are considerate and courteous. They comprise mostly of young people who are always ready to lend a helping hand. Perhaps it is true when they say strangers are friends we have not met yet. Some of these caring strangers have since become good friends.

While out shopping a few weeks ago, the elevator door opened to a young couple with a pram inside. There was just barely enough space to fit my wheelchair. They held the door while I slowly manoeuvred in. I thanked them for being patient.

On the ride up to my intended floor, I made funny faces at the chubby toddler who was comfortably tucked in the pram. She chuckled.

“Panggil uncle,” her mother prompted.

She shyly turned her face away.

I got out before them. Again, they held the door while I carefully reversed out. And again, I thanked them. Not only did they responded with a “Sama-sama”, they bade us goodbye and asked the toddler to wave farewell as well which she meekly did.

Random acts of kindness like these do not cost anything. We can extend them to anyone anywhere and anytime. From greeting the security guard at our workplace with a cheery “Good morning” to giving up our seat in the bus to a senior citizen or pregnant woman, we can make their day more pleasant and ours too at the same time.

We each have the potential to make a difference in someone else’s life. No act is too small or too big. They transcend skin colour, creed and religion. And they do not have to be limited to our fellow humans only.  Animals too deserve kindness, especially dogs and cats. There are many around our neighbourhoods that are abused, abandoned and maimed. Giving them a loving home or paying for their upkeep in shelters are some of the things we can do.

In one of his messages on world peace in 2008, the Dalai Lama had said, “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”

Indeed, the many times that I was on the receiving end of kindness I felt valued as a person. Those encounters always left a smile on my face for hours afterwards. I am so blessed in this way that I am compelled to do my part in spreading it along. Whenever the opportunity arises, I make it a point to pay it forward.

I can also attest to the Dalai Lama’s wisdom that showing kindness towards others helps us to be happy. When on the road, I usually slow down to allow cars from the side road to turn into the main road. A simple acknowledgement of gratitude from the drivers is sufficient to make my day. Even if they did not reciprocate, I was content knowing I had played my part.

More importantly, I hope the drivers will take the cue and extend the same courtesy to other drivers. It can be very stressful to be on the road nowadays with inconsiderate drivers testing our driving skills and patience to the limit. What goes around comes around. I am glad to say that other drivers have time and again shown me the same courtesy by voluntarily giving way.

Showing gratitude is equally important. Therefore, to the people who have been considerate and courteous to me even for the smallest of matters, please accept my heartfelt thanks. Continue doing what you have been doing. Here is hoping these acts will spread and make this world a better place for everyone.