Kindness of Strangers
Granted that we live in a hyper-individualism propelled by the neoliberal politics of our time, I still believe that the future rests on collectivism and what more proof do we need than noticing random acts of kindness when faced with the actual physical human being in front of us?
Random acts of kindness
In August 2012, a low-pressure area made the whole Sta. Rosa flood overnight. Living near the Laguna de Bay, the water quickly rose up, waist high. Then came the habit of putting things up, considering the prospect of relocation. I didn’t have a single notion of politics that time, but I would remember it for the kindness of neighbors, of bangus (priced cheaply for neighbors before shipping off to the market), the camaraderie when putting together a makeshift bridge so people who have 2nd floor can still go to their houses, and the simple sharing of news of the day.
I remember having to go to an event once. A requirement for a subject. Around 2 p.m. I was already at the terminal, waiting for the jeepney to be filled. That time, the sky was already overcast. When the jeep got filled, the fare collected, then came the eventual roar of the vehicle. Around Carmona, the splatter of raindrops filled an otherwise gentle hum of the engine. Several people took it upon themselves to lower down the transparent cover of the jeepney to not get wet. A few moments later, inside, the roof was leaking in quick droplets making a quick puddle on the floor. Several people offered objects to stop the leak, a driver handing what seemed to be a pot-holder, a fellow passenger lifted the ceiling, another offered to put the unlucky lady’s paper bag on the dry part of the jeep.
Some other times, I notice it in trains. Once going to class riding the already crowded 6 a.m. train wagon, passengers pressing on one another, a man passed out. A commotion then ensued, and almost instantly three or four people stood to let the man sit, a woman fanned him, and someone asked for an ointment. Moments after, the man woke up, at first oblivious, then embarrassed. I remember hearing a profuse ‘Thanks’ before I stepped off toward Sta. Mesa station.
In April 14, almost two years ago, Ana Patricia ‘Patreng’ Non, using a bamboo cart and two cardboard signs initiated what would become a nationwide phenomenon of community pantries, a cart filled with items such as canned good, rice, alcohol, face masks, among others set up for the disadvantaged citizens of the community. The pantry functions under the principle of “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.”
There’s a simplicity to to this that attends to our humanity. The act of giving, caring for someone. A box of facemask, a few canned goods, a kilo of rice go a long way to touch our spirit.
We have so little of each other now…
There’s a poem by Danusha Lameris, that I’ve come across that talks about this.
According to an article from the New York Times, researchers have found that “people who perform a random act of kindness tend to underestimate how much the recipient will appreciate it.” But recipients of these acts admit that simple kindnesses help uplift their mood.
Life can be bleak at times, but there are times like the poem mentions. When a stranger hands us our cup of coffee, a driver letting us pass instead of rushing headlong to the highway, a random person complimenting us. I would remember these occasions, these seemingly simple actions of strangers whether or not directed to me, in times when I feel like the divisiveness of everything gets intense. And that no matter how much differences there may be, our almost always instinct is to care for others.
Drex Le Jaena is a writer currently based in Cavite.