Acts of Kindness

Nadia. M. N. El Abdin

Published in the April 2009 issue of Campus Magazine

 I wrote this piece a few months ago after a couple of inspiring events had taken place. After writing the piece I wanted to share it with as many people as I possibly could in the hopes that perhaps they too might be inspired to make a slight change. The piece was published in the May issue of ‘ ‘Campus’ magazine.  An English magazine that you can find in selected places. I didn’t feel that it got the attention that it deserved so after much thought I decided to post it  on the site.

       How often do you see someone in the street that you wish you had stopped to help but didn’t because you would have been late for a meeting, couldn’t find a parking space or had some other excuse? I will be the first to admit that I have done that a few times and the image of the person(s) stayed with me for quite some time afterwards and I would be filled with deep regret for not stopping to help. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’ve turned into a saint and help every single person I come across that would be too farfetched. However I do make a conscious effort to help those that I can whenever and even more so when I have the means to do so.

On the eve of Eid El Atha I parked my car nearby my seamstress’s house and when I stepped out of the car I noticed that a few people were making a b-line as if to avoid something disgusting or even contagious. When I looked closely there lay a man sleeping on a piece of cardboard huddled under a blanket. The sight was both startling and very upsetting. As I walked away from the man and towards my destination, I couldn’t help but think of ways I could help that poor old man. After all it was the season and the time for giving those less fortunate than myself. It wasn’t until I had finished my errand and was heading back to the car did it hit me. I stopped at the local green grocer, who was just around the corner from where my car was parked and bought a mixture of fruit, juice boxes and bottles of water. I walked to my car placed the bags that I was carrying on the ground as quietly as I could because I didn’t want to wake the sleeping man and so that I could put some of my bags in the car. The parking attendant was very shocked to see that I closed the car door and picked up the remaining bags and went to the old man sleeping on the side walk. I wanted to place the bags as close to him as I could without stirring him, he must have sensed me because he awoke and saw me. I pointed to the bags and told him that they were for him.  I will never forget what followed he sat up and looked straight in to my eyes and because he was mute he placed his hands together palms facing up and raised his hands slightly towards the night sky. I couldn’t help but well up with tears and bow my head and walk away. As I write this, I can’t help but get emotional. The exchange between us had caused a few people in the street to stop and stare. When I reached my car the attendant recited a blessing as he held the door open for me. The feeling of helping that man especially after finding out he was mute is indescribable. I only wish I had been able to do more.

This past weekend I came down to Alexandria to pick up my parent’s from the airport. I pottered around the house getting things ready for them, did some last minute errands for them and for myself until their flight was due to arrive later that evening. I went to do some of their weeks shopping and as I rolled my trolley up and down the aisles of the hyper market bumping into some friends, striking up a conversation not knowing that another opportunity would be waiting literally right around the corner. I paid for the shopping and stopped at a coffee shop. As I sat inside sipping my orange juice, taking a bite from my spinach cheese pastry, skimming through a magazine and subconsciously checked things off on my mental to do list, two young girls walked in to the coffee shop, from their attire it was obvious that they could not afford any items on the menu. They sat at a table and as quietly as they could they pulled out a bag of potato chips that they had probably bought with their saved up money and sat sharing it between them. I knew that some individuals who like to go to the coffee shop wouldn’t appreciate their presence and would probably ask the employees to have them leave the premises. To ensure that no one would have the opportunity of putting the employees or the young girls in an embarrassing situation I quickly finished my beverage and pastry and pushed my trolley back to  the cashier and waited in line to place another order. I ordered two chocolate twist pastry and two orange juices and told the cashier to give it to the two little girls sitting at the table. The cashier sighed and smiled trying very hard to hold back the tears. I paid for the order and left. Although I wasn’t there to see their reaction, I know that they appreciated the gesture and felt special sitting there as equals to everyone else.

Acts of kindness don’t always have to be in the form of monetary things. It can be something as simple as acknowledging your waiter by his or her name when you’re at a restaurant and not talking at him or her but with them. Remember to thank them, when they bring your order and when they take the plate away. Believe me they will appreciate it more than you will ever know. You might have been the nicest person they have served all day. When you walk into your building and pass the porter (bowab), say hello and ask how they are and listen to their reply. When you are stuck in traffic, remember you aren’t the only one getting frustrated, there are all those other drivers who are stopped next to you probably feeling the same way you are, if the cars start to move and you see someone attempting to cross in front of you, let them, the few seconds you wait won’t make a difference and you never know you may be helping that person indirectly by getting to a place they may need to be urgently a little quicker.

 On that note, I challenge you! Yes, you! I challenge you to do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. It could be a stranger, a family member or a friend you know. I defy you to tell me that when you have done it that you didn’t feel good afterwards.