I’ve come back from Nepal slightly jaded from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. As a tourist, you are constantly bombarded by shop owners and street sellers trying to get you to buy something. You step into their shop, you get the hard sell. You walk down the street, someone follows you asking you to buy tiger balm. Someone asks if they can push your trolley at the airport because you’re limping, they ask for a tip. Someone wants something, and it comes at a price.
You accept this. It’s a way of life and like us all, they’re trying to earn a crust, Unfortunately, it left me skeptical of anyone asking if I needed help or generally being kind.
But not everyone.
Having been caught in a strike for five hours at somewhere between Pokhara and Tansen, I, along with three other travellers were deposited on the main road in Lumbini – the birthplace of Buddha after being on the road for 15 hours. It was pitch black – they were load shedding at the time – and there was no one about. After 10 mins of walking down a dark, but wide dirt track, we realised that none of us knew where the Korean Monastery was – our bed for the night. Scratching our heads at a junction, a motorbike sped past, then came back.
A man got off the back and asked us where we were going. It was obvious that we were lost. He then phoned a taxi, and waited until it came, before carrying on to their destination.
After thanking him, he simply said: “We have to look after tourists in our country.”
Back at home, I was taking a very early train from the Sussex coast to Oxford. A family of five (including two young children) boarded the train and were going to a 40th birthday up in Crawley. Brash and loud, I upped the volume on my smartphone turned mp3 and tried to look inconspicuous. Then they started drinking (and before you ask – no – the kids weren’t drinking).
It’s going to be a long journey, I thought. I considered moving, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I stayed put and watched the world go by though the window.
The catering trolley came down, and I was desperate for a cup of tea. Unfortunately, all I had was a £20 note and 90p in change. The tea was £1.90. The catering lady didn’t have any change and I thought I would have to forfeit my tea.
But then, the dad offered a £1 and I got my cuppa. It was a small act of kindness. After all, what’s a quid? But it restored (some) of my faith in humanity. When in need, people are there.
I think we should celebrate the kindness of strangers, no matter how small.
What random act of kindness has a stranger done for you today?
*In case you were wondering where you’ve heard this before, it’s from a line in Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire. “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”.