Monday, June 17

Random acts of kindness


I WORK half a day only. That is as much strength as I can muster. After that, my energy level and concentration goes down. I would spend the rest of the day observing my fellow trainers in their sessions to learn a thing or two more about other disabilities.

Sometimes, I leave the training centre early to hang around at KL Sentral to wait for my wife, who gets off work at six. Being Malaysia’s largest transit hub, the place is busy throughout the day and teeming with people. Commuters are constantly streaming in or out of the gates of the different rail lines. I would usually park myself near the LRT ticket gates where my wife comes out. While waiting, I sit there and observe the flurry of activity.

A couple of days ago, in the middle of that bustle, three young men stood a short distance from me. They were chatting animatedly among themselves. They looked no older than 25. An old woman with a very pronounced hump trudged past them. She supported herself with a walking cane on one hand and held a very large laden plastic bag with the other.

She is a regular fixture there. I have seen her rummaging for discarded aluminium cans in the many refuse bins around the station. She does this quietly without disrupting the flow of people moving about. As she headed for the refuse bin nearby, one of the three young men approached her.

He took out his wallet, fished out a few notes and handed them to her. She took the money, put them in her pocket and continued on her way to the bin. All this happened without a word being exchanged. The young man walked back to his friends and they continued chatting like they were before.

That was a brief but truly heart-warming sight. That scene is burned in my mind. It was a privilege to witness this act of kindness, especially from a young man. Giving away a few ringgit may not affect him much but that could mean a better meal for her for that day or a new pair of shoes to replace her worn ones.

The auxiliary policemen there are also a helpful lot. KL Sentral is located in Brickfields, where many blind people work and live. On seeing a blind person, the policemen would approach to guide them to the escalators or their intended destination within the building. They would do the same to older and frail persons as well.

Last Thursday, a man walked quickly by me. He pulled out some money from his wallet. A few cards fell onto the floor without him realising it. I called out after him but he did not hear me. A young woman ran after him and tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. He picked up the cards and thanked the woman profusely.

In this place, where people are perpetually on the move, rushing from one place to another, some still make time to go out of their way to perform random acts of kindness. Small gestures like these do not need much effort but they mean a lot to those on the receiving end.

I have been a recipient of such kindness many times too. While sitting at the same spot waiting for my wife, passers-by would walk past and then turn back to ask if I needed any assistance. When I told them I was fine, they would ask again to be doubly sure I was all right.

There was a day when two passers-by came over to offer help within a span of two minutes. One was a middle-aged woman. The other was a young man. I must have looked like I was lost but I was just sitting there killing time and relaxing while waiting for my wife. It was a good feeling though, knowing there are people who will take time and effort to ensure I was not in need.

Random acts of kindness do not have to be an act of doing something physical. They can be showing concern and care for another fellow human, or even animals. It often does not cost us anything. Even if it does, it would be in amounts we can well afford.

We are all interrelated in more ways than we realise. We never know when we need help and when our help is needed. We should do good if given the opportunity and help in whatever way we can. We grew up in a society that was caring. Somehow along the way, that value became eroded as we became more affluent and sophisticated.

I am glad all is not lost. There are still many caring people around. We each have a role to play in making society better and those people are the best examples for us to emulate. They do it silently without expecting anything in return. What they have done were pure acts of charity. Let’s all walk in their footsteps. Together we can build a more caring and loving society.