ACTS OF KINDNESS
No act of kindness is ever wasted -Aesop
I have a spreadsheet that records all of the Weekly Wisdom quotes we’ve put on our blackboard. I recently came across this quote and it got me thinking about a very special act of kindness, and one of my most favourite memories.
Rewind to 2008
I was 25 and living in shared accommodation on Lefkada Island, Greece, in a little village called Vasiliki. My boyfriend at the time was doing a windsurfing course, and I decided to tag along to work, travel, and to live the carefree backpacking life that everyone made look and sound so incredible. Eventually, we would base ourselves in London and travel all around Europe (everyone else was doing it).
If we were to do the “instagram vs. reality” for this scenario?
INSTAGRAM: group of super cool-looking, Ray Ban-wearing youngsters in the middle of a party on a yacht. Drink in hand, laughing at something really funny.
REALITY: fat Emily, crying, and emotional-eating Nutella crepes in her room.
I have nothing against Nutella crepes but, dear lord, emotionally eating them is dangerous and subsequently negates the amazingness of the crepe itself because the repercussions far outweigh the deliciousness. After eating my emotions - my unhappy relationship, my hateful job, my loneliness, my lack of direction, my desperate need to feel settled and at peace – I put on 10kg in a 3-month period.
I’ve had a few periods of depression in my life, and this was one of them.
Every day, I would walk through the village to the little café where I worked. I think I got 3 or 4 Euros an hour to take orders, serve customers, and be bossed around – it was miserable, and I hated every second of it. I remember having a chat with Cookie a while ago, who said he would cry before going into one of his earlier jobs. I’m sure most of us have had THAT job (although we may have held it together a bit better).
It wasn’t always totally miserable at work, though. Tourists would come in every now and again, and I’d usually get into good conversation with them; about their real lives, and about the island and what it was like living there (obviously I didn’t tell them THIS story!) I remember meeting a girl who had just moved to Abu Dhabi to teach, and she told me all those crazy far-fetched stories from the Middle East. At the time, I had no knowledge of the UAE, and was like “pfffft that definitely does not happen and is definitely made up” (obviously, I now know that they were true, so I’m sorry nice stranger for accusing you of lying!
The best parts of my day were these chats, where I’d connect with happy people and forget what was happening in my own life. One day, a sweet English couple stopped by and we got into a great conversation after I had commented on how lovely her earrings were. Their names were Mandy and Paul.
The thing about those conversations though, was that they were only temporary distractions – the tourists would finish their holiday and go home, and I would stay stuck where I was.
A lot of the finer details have been forgotten from this time (I usually don’t even remember what I did yesterday, so 10+ years is a real stretch for me) and so I only really remember general themes, for example, my unhappiness and the fact that I got fat.
It was probably a few weeks after meeting Mandy and Paul when I turned up to work and my boss, Yannis, said “Em-e-lee, you have mail”. I remember that the envelope was addressed to “The girl from Australia who works at XXXXX Café Name” (I do not, however, remember the name of our Café).
I don’t remember what was written inside, whether it was a card or a letter, but I will never forget how I felt when I saw those lovely earrings. Mandy had gone back home, had found the exact same pair, and had sent them to the perfect stranger whom she had met on holiday.
I don’t know what compelled her to do that – did she sense that I needed some love, and did she know that it was going to be the only happy moment I would remember from my entire time overseas? Did she know that It would be so monumental that I would never forget the thoughtfulness and kindness of her act? Did she know that it would be one of my motivations to try to be more thoughtful of others (if I could make someone else feel half as happy, then that would just make my day!) Did she know that I would still be talking about it 10 years later?
She probably didn’t. She probably wouldn’t have realised that it would make such an impact on me, except for the fact that we are still in touch today and that I try to message her every time I think about her kindness. She’s followed me through my 10-year journey of settling into Dubai and building my life with Craig, and I’ve followed her as she’s watched her two daughters build their lives and reduced her working hours to enjoy life as a grandma. When I told her about the blog she replied, “the one thing that always strikes me about kindness is how the tiniest gesture can do so much”. Ain’t that the truth
How amazing would it be if we had more of those people in our lives or if we were that person to others?
As you go off into your incredibly busy day, remember that no act of kindness, big or small, is ever wasted.