Someone told me once not to be so involved in other people’s problems — worried, probably, that I would butt my (broken) nose where it didn’t belong. Or maybe that I’d get eaten up by empathy. I’ve always taken that advice to heart. So I don’t think I’m a crusader at all. But it does make me darn happy when a gesture, no matter how small, pays off.
Seeing the continuing aid pouring in at the site — from yesterday’s $880, it’s now $980 — is extraordinary.
At my age, 31, you’d think I’d have seen a lot of kindnesses already, and I have. But it never ceases to amaze me. Because it can go either way. You could as easily be kind as be careless.
Actually, wait, I do think it’s harder to be kind than to shrug and say, “I couldn’t care less.”
Most of us, however, could be carelessly, unwittingly kind if we so chose.
Outside my former office, there’s a man my former editor calls “Boy Pusa.” He adopts cats. You’ll probably find a dozen stray cats, either lounging on his kariton or tied to posts to the side of this busy, narrow lane he calls home. He’s a little touched in the head, this man, he talks to his cats. But he takes care of them as best he can. A homeless man, taking in strays. I’m told he recently found a Siamese, can you believe it? I wish someone would put up a kitty cafe here and hire this man as caretaker.
On the streets of Manila, how many homeless people do you see? Look around them, how many pets do they have? Invariably, you will find that they shelter animals, when they can barely fend for themselves.
I once read a story about a man and his dog. The dog would fight with the man for scraps, was sometimes beaten. The moral of the story was that the dog would keep coming back to his master even though he was abused. It was a horrid story. And although I’m certain such stories are true — there will be the man who will be cruel to animals — I find that most of the time, on the streets, you have people who are just carelessly kind.
Each of us, at one point or another, has been carelessly kind. I say careless, because it can be such a small thing for any one of us to do, but its impact can be astonishing.
I was a transferee from one school in my hometown to another school (my mother’s alma mater) in a proper city, which I was obliged to travel to and from everyday.
I met an older girl at this new school, who had the same surname as a childhood classmate of mine, L. I remarked upon it, and learned she was the sister of L. She gave me a letter for him, which I took as a small favor.
So I went back to my old school, and when I couldn’t find my old classmate, tracked him to his home in another town.
What I did not know at the time was that this older girl had lost track of her siblings when their parents had split up. They had not seen each other for ages. And that because I delivered that letter, quite casually, I was instrumental in their reunion.
They were so happy to have found each other again that they made it a point to attend my high school graduation, which somewhat embarrassed me (how do you deal with profuse gratitude?), but also made me realize how such a simple action can have so much impact.
I should also perhaps point out that this all happened because of music. Practically the only thing that I had in common with my old classmate was our taste in music. And I would never have met the elder sister if we had not been members of the same Glee Club. Tiny details that determined whether or not the connection would have been made.
What’s my point? Kindness, for its own sake, is never wasted. Careless or deliberate, if one takes the time to be kind, the result, as I learned, is astonishing. Also, the opportunity to be kind can stem from just about anything.
I can’t say that I’ve always been kind. I can even say that I’ve been deliberately cruel. I admit to more times I’ve been callous than sympathetic. I guess it’s just good to be reminded, every now and then, of the alternative. And to try to be kind, when one can.
Again, to the Good Samaritan: thanks. I don’t know what it cost you, but I’m hoping you will be repaid, somehow, in kind.