Noticing, the prerequisite for kindness

Kindness doesn’t require us to be a saint or to make huge sacrifices. All it takes is a little bit of time and the inclination to really look at the people around us. 

I was on the Tube in London on my way back home. Whenever I make this journey from Earl’s Court to Wimbledon on the District Line, it feels as if it lasts forever. It was filled up with the usual rush hour crowd. All the seats were taken, of course. Some were reading, some had earphones on, and some were watching something on their mobile, while the rest just sat there with a vacant stare that most us adopt at the end of a busy work day. As the Tube trundled on, I held on to a pole and was lost in my book. I caught sight of someone getting up from a seat, and as most us tend to do, I jumped at it and sat down immediately. I smiled to myself when I heard someone near sigh that they were too slow to grab the seat.

Soon after I sat down, something made me look around me. I noticed this lady standing, holding onto the pole near the door. She was heavily pregnant, had a “Baby on Board” badge pinned to her coat, and looked completely wrung out. I wondered how long had the poor woman been standing there. I caught her eye and asked if she would like to sit down. She hesitantly said, ‘Would that be ok?’ She sat down and thanked me. When I got back home, this incident got me thinking. I know, this happens every day and most people don’t give it a second thought. Perhaps it’s the notion that we don’t think about such things that really bothered me. So many people on that Tube and it was a while before one of us even noticed that pregnant woman standing among us.

 

Image of a person giving a hand to another
Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Perhaps most of us, at the end of a hard day, think why should we bother about others? Why should we be kind to others when no one seems to do the same for us? I understand that, I do. But is that really the best attitude to base our lives on? We all come with the default features of compassion, empathy and kindness. When someone needs help, when someone’s in trouble, it’s in our nature to help. Yet, we switch that part of ourselves off. We tell ourselves that in order to get through a day, a job or even life, we need to focus on us – ‘Me’ first, and that’s all that matters.

Our preoccupation with ourselves is making us oblivious to the world around. The media bombards us with constant flow of information which only makes it worse. Our attention span keeps reducing while our absorption with our own life keeps increasing. Think about the last time you were in a public place and you actually took time to look up from your mobile or tablet. How long did the people nearby hold your attention before you reached for that gadget in your pocket or purse? You are having a conversation with a friend or colleague and they grab their mobile or answer a call – it makes you feel like you don’t exist and pisses you off. Yet we all do that to the people in our lives.

The problem is not that we don’t care. The fact is, we don’t notice, we don’t pay attention. When we walk past others, our mind is too preoccupied planning our day or our life – deciding what to wear to the party on Friday, thinking what to make for dinner, reminding ourselves to pick up the kids from school. We don’t notice the frail old woman struggling with her grocery bags, or the poor homeless man lying unconscious from starvation on the pavement, or the lady holding out a little bucket trying to raise money for a charity fighting cancer. Kindness doesn’t require us to be a saint or to make huge sacrifices. All it takes is a little bit of time and the inclination to really look at the people around us.

SOS Children, a global charity that helps children, placed a hidden camera and filmed what people did when they saw a 11-year-old boy sitting alone at a bus stop in Oslo, shivering in the cold winter.

This video that they recorded, shows the heart-warming acts of kindness and generosity from complete strangers. It has been viewed by over 14 million people and it’s hard not be inspired by it.

Noticing that something is wrong or that someone needs help is the first step. Because when we don’t notice, we don’t act. Imagine having to live in a world where no one helped or cared about anybody? It would be dreadful and I wouldn’t want to live there. Would you?

How have acts of kindness inspired you? Share your stories in the comments.

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