Monday was World Kindness Day. The Washington Post published stories from all kinds of people about a kindness they received that had a lasting impact. In response, the comments have many more such stories. And so does Metafilter. Mefite forza told about the time she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique and the bus to her village broke down in the middle of nowhere.
It was about 30 minutes' drive from the nearest village but there wasn't much in that village. I don't even know if it was on the map, but it basically consisted of just huts and small plots of land. I knew nobody there, there was certainly nothing in the way of hotels or campsites or any kind of place to sleep, and I had no way of getting in touch with anyone (this was before cell phones were ubiquitous). I had no idea what to do. Some people were bedding down on the side of the road and I figured I'd just have to do that. But I was pretty freaked out at the idea. For one thing, there were unexploded landmines along the road and we were constantly warned never to go off it. It was probably okay, but... landmines! Worse, most everyone else was traveling with their families or other companions, and here I was, a very young woman, alone, with pale white skin that just screamed out "I'm a rich foreigner and do not belong." I spoke Portuguese reasonably well but not any of the local dialects, which is what most people spoke, which made everything even more difficult.
While I was standing there, dismayed, trying to figure out what to do, one of the women I'd been chatting off and on with started gesturing to me impatiently. "Come with me" she said with a kind of take-charge, no-nonsense air that I admired. I don't remember what I said or did, but the long and the short of it is that she overrode any feeble objections I had and in short order I was hustled into the next chapa (a local taxi truck thingy) and taken to the nearby village, where she lived. She and her large family hosted me that night. We had chips and matapa, a delicious Mozambican dish that I loved but had never perfected making myself. Her kids laughed and circled around and were fascinated to have a visit from a real mulungu (white person). I held her baby, an adorably alert little girl with huge black eyes. For some reason I still remember the baby's name: Carlotta. I couldn't follow a lot of the conversation, because only the woman spoke Portuguese, but I felt so welcomed despite my foreignness. I remember nodding off to sleep in my corner after that meal, thinking how safe and full I felt, knowing it was only this woman's sheer kindness that lay between that and a night spent shivering in fear and hunger by the side of the road.
You'll notice in the stories that the giver receives a great boost in happiness.
This! I had a friend who had been broke as all get out post divorce, but then married a very wealthy man. She loved to give - to friends, to strangers, big gifts, small gifts, it was all good. Recipients would try to refuse her gifts, "Oh no, no, I couldn't possibly accept something this generous!" They didn't realize how much pleasure she got from giving. Heck, I didn't realize at first, until I watched her face. I've learned to accept generosity and kindness as its own gift.
Reading the stories in all these links can be a gift for yourself, and an inspiration to do something kind for someone today.
(Inrelated image credit: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo)