What does it take to brighten a day?
What will it take to brighten your day today? A smile, a hug, a friend, a random act of kindness?
The good thing about most of these are that you cannot give one without getting one.
When I hug my friends, I get a hug in return.
When I smile and tease my friends, I get laughter in return.
When I love without calculating whether the love will be returned and how much, I get loved in return.
There’s a bunch of street kids near my university who seems to have figured out something quite well. They pick up trash and trade in garbage. In their line of work, where they exist in the fringe of society, in the space where most people are trying to avoid looking them in the eye or if they do, they don’t know how to react. I have seen them being treated with disdain, pity and a plethora of emotions which we would never consciously expose our children to. These are kids in the age range of 5 to 10 years old.
What they seem to have figured out is that kindness among themselves work to keep them boosted above their drudgery. Last year, I refused to hand out money to this kid who came around begging. Instead I offered to buy him what I was eating – a chicken roll and a soda. He gleefully accepted but then went around to tell his other friends that the crazy lady at the shop was buying kids food. So next thing I know, I am swamped in this mêlée of kids, 3 deep, smiling at me and talking all over each other.
This kid could’ve taken his food, stayed right where he was and relished it. Instead he went and called his friends. If I had refused, he would’ve shared it with his buddies. But he wasn’t going to eat it alone. For them it was a treat they didn’t often get. The requests ranged from beef roll, chicken roll to egg roll. Most of the kids chose juice over soda, which was really amazing.
What struck me was that they were willing to share, even though they didn’t have much to begin with. They called on each other to share this good fortune (crazy lady doesn’t come by too often apparently). They knew what they wanted and they really enjoyed the moment, the food and each other’s generosity.
In case you are wondering – the food for the entire team costs me less than what it would’ve cost to take my son out to KFC. And they enjoyed it far more than my son would’ve. The contrast was so stark, it was humbling. My son takes it as his right to eat out in places like Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, KFC, etc on a regular basis, at his whim. He never thinks of the food, cost or the experience, because its no less than what he expects.
That’s the difference between what we think we can do and what we can actually do.
It still doesn’t cost me much to feed these kids who line up whenever they see me on a break outside the university. They wait patiently to see if I would offer to feed them whatever I was eating, not clamouring, not demanding, just waiting. Yesterday I shared my ‘chotpoti’ (a popular street food) with a five-year old. He was so quiet from the rebuffs of life that he didn’t say anything when I asked him if he would like some. He nodded his head and stood waiting with his sack over his shoulder. As I pushed a tool towards him for him to sit down, I couldn’t help noticing his eyes – they were sad, quiet, muted. When his plate was served, he picked gingerly at the shaved eggs dusted on top and savoured every bite of it. We sat side by side, eating in silence.
For me this was the moment that brightened my day. A random act of kindness, accepted by a child, who consented in silence to share that moment.