Saturday, May 10, 2014

Week nineteen – RAK!

RAK or Random Act of Kindness is something you don’t often hear and when you do it shocks you!

How often do we stop in the middle of the street and offer assistants to a total stranger? How often do we take a moment of our busy lives to help someone in need? And how often do you hear stories involving someone helping another person they don’t know out of the goodness of their hearts? Yea, I know, not very often, and when you do it shocks you, but then it gives you a great feeling that there are still some good people out there.

This week my wife had one of those RAK moments when she found herself locked out of the car at the supermarket on a busy Saturday morning and this story inspire me to talk about this subject.

She has a very busy and hectic life and often, as I travel all week, she has to manage the house, kids and her job all by herself. On this particular Saturday morning I was away and she had gone to buy food for the kids and me (I was arriving later that morning) before going to work. Up on returning to the car she realised she had left the boot of the car open and was relived to see the car was still there! She placed the shopping in the boot together with her handbag and she closed it. She never places her phone or keys on her bag but this morning, for some reason, she had and when she went to get in the car she realised she had locked not only her keys but also the phone inside and now she was stuck in the middle of the car park! She only had half an hour to get back home and drop the shopping before going to work and she panicked (who wouldn’t)! No keys, no phone, no money, how was she going to get back home and in time for work? The expression on her face must have been so grave that a total stranger who was just parking her car asked her if everything was ok. As my wife explained her ordeal the lady, unexpectedly, offer to drive her home to pick up the spare key. My wife could not believe what she was hearing and at first, she thought she was just driving her home. When they got there, to her surprise, she also offered to wait for her and drive her back to the car! It is not very often you hear this kind of stories and the fact that someone was willing to help someone taking time of their busy life.

I think what is even more extraordinary about this story is that the person who helped my wife did this completely out of the goodness of their heart and wanted nothing in return but to hep a fellow human being in distress. In the panic and confusion of the event, my wife did not ask the lady where she lived or even what her name was and she did not share this with her either. Here you have what we would call an unsound hero, someone who was interested only in helping. She does know the lady works on Sundays in a shop so my wife plans to visit her and show her gratitude for what she did.

It is a nice story and one that gives you hope, hope that there are still some people out there who are willing to help someone else and they do it because they know how important it is when you are in need that someone is there to help. But this is very rare and I know that even myself sometimes turn a blind eye to what is happening around us, as we struggle with a society that has become very selfish and afraid to help one another in times of need. When I reflect on this story I asked myself, what if it had been a man that try to help my wife? Would she have got on the car with him? Would that have been safe? How would she have known the man had good intentions? You see, the moment you chance the facts, this feel-good story changes, you beg the question, would the person offering to help really wanted to help or had other intentions? This brings a different perspective and tells us why often we don’t help people or accept help from strangers. Think about it; what would you do if you see a lost child in the street? Of course you want to help but you stop and think, what will happen if I do? What would people think if I hold this kid’s hand to comfort him/her while I try to find out where they live? What if I walk away with the child and the mother comes and sees this? And, and, and… This is what society has done to RAK, we have become suspicious of everyone around us because even when someone does want to help, you ask the question should I trust this person; remember, you don’t know anything about them. We also don’t want to help people because we don’t know if they really need help or have bad intentions. As you drive along a quite country lane you see a person standing by the side of the road, their car has broken down and they are flagging you down for help. Do you stop? Most of us think twice before we do. What if the person has bad intent and they could kidnap you or even knock you out and take you into the fields? What if you stop and they rob you? Take your car? What if there are others hiding behind the bushes? What if? And so you drive on leaving the person behind. They could also, of course, be genuinely stuck and in need of help but the risks, for you, are far higher and leave the person behind.

If you play this out you can see that random acts of kindness have become so rare because we have made them rare. That lady that helped my wife didn’t have to drive her home and wait, she could have just walked away, it wasn’t as if my wife was stuck in the middle of the forest, the lady could have thought “she can call a cab and go and get her spare key” but I guess it was not in her nature, as she still believes that we can help one another, without predigest, without worry that this may back fire on her. Sadly we are guilty of this mistrust and uncertainty that has driven our society to focused more on the bad than the good, Random Acts of Kindness are no longer part of our lives, like they used to when people could “thumb” their way up to London, or we help a child cross the road holding their hand, or stop and help someone when their car broke down. If we did we would be a much better society where people help one another out of the goodness of their heart!

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