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18 Oktober 2010

Aku Dah Takda Idea Nak Tulis Apa

What is true kindness?

SOME years back, a parking ticket in the local municipality did not require one to key in the car registration number. So if you still had some time left on your ticket, you could easily pass it on to the person waiting to take your parking spot. In a busy neighbourhood, where we often need to park to pay a bill or pick up an item from the grocery store, an hour of parking time is often 30 minutes too long.

Obviously the operators spotted the problem of how the sharing of tickets impacted their revenue. So now you understand why your car number is stated on the ticket and unless another car with a similar number shows up, you can forget about outwitting the operators with such a random act of kindness.

I doubt if any of us were trying to cheat the operators. It was just a nice way to see a smile light up on a stranger’s face when he realised that you were not only giving him the space, but also the balance on your ticket.

And have you noticed also the diminishing number of “cash lanes” at our toll plazas? Everyone just wants to rush through on the other lanes which accept their SmartTag or Touch and Go prepaid cards. On the cash lane, you have the opportunity to surprise the driver behind you by paying his toll, and you can see how grateful he is as he passes you by. I believe such simple gestures can contribute towards minimising road rage incidents. It is good for the soul of both the giver and the receiver. I was reflecting on these random acts of kindness after a friend sent me an article she wrote about the test of true kindness.

She related a case of a beggar who was ignored as he went from one table to another begging for scraps of food. A doctor having his lunch at the coffeeshop went up to the beggar, asked him what he wanted to eat, sat him down, and paid for his meal. The beggar finished the meal and left without saying anything to the doctor. The doctor was upset. Why didn’t the beggar say thanks? Who does the beggar think he is? In the end, the doctor realised the question was not so much who the beggar thought he was but who he (the doctor) thought he was.

Many of us would have reacted the same way. Often we act kindly and then are surprised when our act of kindness is not appreciated. So what is true kindness? Let me share with you a true story. Some years back, a very dear friend, now departed, passed by a dishevelled man sitting on the pavement daily as she went through her chores. After months of ignoring this person, she felt she could not just walk by without doing anything. She offered him a bun to eat. She did that daily for two weeks and then he disappeared. She searched for him and found him.

He was sick. So she brought him to the doctor. And then she brought him home. For six months, she and her family cared for this man, a total stranger, and nursed him back to good health. They learnt about his family in India and how he had been separated from them for 35 years. One thing led to another and the family was located. Gifts of money began to pour in from sympathetic friends who’d heard his story. They paid for his passage home, with new clothes and presents to take home for his family.

No one knows what happened after that. And it didn’t really matter. Not to this dear old lady who first took him in anyway. To her, it was not so much the kindness she extended to him, but how much she was blessed by this man.

# Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin realises that many of us are still chewing on the monetary implications that Budget 2011 may have on us personally, and would like to suggest that there is more to life than simply money.

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