Kind, kinder, kindest…

I have been a rolling stone until the news about the Diamond Princess cruise ship anchoring at Yokohama in Japan captured my attention in early February 2020. Just like everyone else in the world, the sheer idea of a random cruise ship and this unknown virus grabbing so much of international media attention puzzled me, but life had to go on.

The virus hit closer to home as the offices closed for people to work from home in late March. Things changed.  House became ‘home, school and offices’, all rolled into one. This was probably the longest of time my husband and I spent together at our home. So, we tried to figure out some common interests as we would otherwise go off on our own tangents.

Indoor gardening was our solution. And it was during one of our endless trips to the garden centre (the only shop we went to, apart from the grocer) that it first struck me. People, as they had more time in their hands to spend at the shop, were more kind to each other. At first, I thought it was a figment of my imagination, but gradually realised that it was true. My fellow shoppers had time to smile at me, share a joke and even give a piece of advice on a plant that I was staring at cluelessly!

Slowly, it was clear to me that one thing spreading as quick as the virus itself was kindness. It was certain that we were all in the same storm. The boats that we used to escape were all different, but unless we were considerate, the storm would swallow us up. And this perspective changed everything!

From sharing the toilet tissue packs to pasta and perishable food during the time of shortage, to checking on elderly neighbours – we started doing it all, which kind of made us wonder why this wasn’t thought about earlier. A friend said that their children commenced sharing their basketball hoop with the next-door neighbours which is not something they had ever done, and thus developed a new friendship with them – such heart-warming stories surfaced from everywhere like never before.

The double-edged sword that could be social media, was full of inspiring and empathetic thoughts from all over. The neighbourhood groups in the social media evolved as support groups – street libraries and community pantries became platforms to exchange thoughts and deeds of kindness.

Pandemic times brought forth a range of emotions – sadness, anger, depression, desperation and so on, but it was rather strange that these times would trigger kindness too!  And as the acts of kindness grew around me, I realised that my ways of being kind should be different too.

Like one time I went cloth shopping at a local women’s shop. It was quarter to six on a Thursday. One lady was managing the reasonably large shop and the counter by herself, as I walked in. She said to me that she was going to close in 15 minutes. That being a late-night shopping day, she must have noticed the confusion on my face. She walked over to me and started talking in a fragile voice. “I am sorry I didn’t mean to offend you; I had a long day. There is a staff cut down, so I have been working from the morning, without a snack or bathroom break.”

I felt sorry for her and offered to (wo)man the shop while she can duck out to the toilets, or maybe I can grab her a quick bite? Or I asked her if I should just leave, so that she can get on with wrapping up the day? Upon which tears started trickling down her eyes. “Not everyone has been kind to me today. I have had people shout at me for being slow, but you see I am doing my best”. It occurred to me that more than anything else, the kindest deed I can do to her at the moment is to just be there and listen to her. And I am glad to this day that I made that decision to stay back and listen to her! As I look back, there possibly have not been many times my presence was so valued to make a difference.

And as we hear the stories of the third wave of Covid hitting really hard around the world, and even terrifying stories of dear friends’ family members passing away due to insufficient supply of oxygen at the hospitals, one thing is for sure.

More kindness is required so that we can get through this. And we need to be kind, kinder and kindest…

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