Friday, August 14, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

I've been reading the book, "The Kindness of Strangers" that is a compilation, by many authors, of random acts of kindness they received from strangers. It reminded me of some experiences I have had in my life that I wanted to share here.

Sad to say, but most of the acts of kindness I have received were in Asia. The people in China and Taiwan are some of the most gracious, and they give of what they have, even if they don't have much. I was taught a saying once by an older man in Taiwan that goes, "Chang Hsin, Bi Hsin". I won't give the exact translation, but it means that if you give of your heart to others, they will try to compete with you, by giving of their's to you.

One day I went to the post office near my apartement in Beijing to mail a letter. In China they provide glue so that you can glue the stamps to the letters. ( least that was the way it was 14 years ago) On that day I was carrying a sleeping toddler. An older man came up to me and without saying a word, motioned for me to hand him my letter. He carefully glued the stamp in place and mailed it for me. He never said a word, but helped me because he saw that I needed help.

Another time I was carrying my sleeping baby in the post office again, and had to stand in line to pick up a package. In China there are no lines as we know them. A line in China consists of a group of people funneling towards the clerk, with everyone pushing and holding out their claim slip in hopes that the clerk will choose their claim slip next. It is the same for any line: McDonalds, the bank, the store, etc. On this day, an older woman volunteered to hold my baby for me. She was quite a bit older than me, and I'm sure not as in good of shape. I know it was difficult for her to hold the baby, but she could see that it was almost impossiblie for me to fight the crowd with a baby in my arms. I think she held that baby at least 30 minutes.

A few years ago my husband and I went to Taiwan. On Sunday we visited the Ward in Tswo Ying where he served for many months when he was a missionary. After church we didn't really have any plans, but knew we needed to eat. We didn't really like buying food on Sunday, because we believe that we should keep the Sabbath day holy by not causing other people to work on the Sabbath. But we needed to eat, so we resigned ourselves to going to a restaurant. As we were leaving church, one of the women told us that every week they cook food for the wives and children of the men who have to stay for meetings. She offered some of the food to us, and told us that they cook enough to give to everyone who is there. We really appreciated it. It wasn't much, just a small bowl, but it took the edge off our hunger. But then another woman, whom we had never met before, came up and asked us to come to her house for lunch. She wouldn't take no for an answer. She took us home and was able to come up with a simple but tasty lunch for us. We visited with her for some time, then told her we needed to go to another building across town to meet up with my old missionary companion. She volunteered to drive us there. This was a woman we had never met before, and may never meet again. But she left us feeling that we had a new close friend.

None of these acts of kindness were earth shaking. We probably would have gotten along the best we could without them. But to receive kindness and compassion really does bring peace to your soul. I would like to be more like these people. I close with the remarks of the Da Lai Lama:

"I believe that we are all, to some extent moved by an inability to bear the sight of another's suffering. It is this that, when we see someone in trouble, stirs some feeling in us to go and see if there is anything we can do to help. Moreover, I believe that alongside our natural ability to empathize with others, we also have a need for others' kindness, which runs like a thread throughout our whole life."


Nene said...

I love that last quote.

Amber said...

this was an amazing blog, very inspirational, sometimes it is hard to accept another person's kindness, but when you do it really does make you feel so loved