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A fellow bloggger has been writing about random acts of kindness, something I subscribe to and practice on a fairly regular basis, though not EVERY Friday. It's one of the many things I adore about Danny Wallace.
So I thought I'd share one of my most cringeworthy gifts of kindness. They do mostly leave me wanting the ground to open up, but I think that is because people react so strangely. I've written to numerous retailers about the high quality of their staff. I've picked up drunk strangers in bare feet and given them a lift. My sister and I are always collecting lonely Mo's on nights out, sharing our evening and making sure they get home safely. I once put a girls hair up in a pony tail in the middle of Oxford St because her dress was too tight for her to lift her arms and do it herself. She said she had an interview. I still wonder if she just wanted to steal my purse.
But this story is not about any of that.
I think the only thing that shocks people is random acts of kindness. I was in Sainsbury once and a mature gentleman in front of me had his debit card refused (it was new and I don't think he had activated it). So I said 'It's ok, I'll get it'. He looked at me in horror and replied 'why would you do that?'. The young shop assistant was wide mouthed and voices in my head were questioning me. It was more embarrassing than losing my knickers at work!
I told him, I just don't want you to put your shopping back. I could picture him spending time carefully choosing something nice to cook for his wife that evening. It was 8pm and the thought of him wandering home empty handed was awful. Would another customer have let that go? Maybe, but that's sad. I want kindness be the norm not the unusual.
So he offered me all the cash he had and I told him not to worry (thinking, he will need that tomorrow when he has to come into town and sort his debit card out at the bank. You know, get a coffee and a paper?). He was indignant. 'I've got money you know'. I took the £5 note and left him the small change. He told me to leave my name at the desk and he would pay me back (it was only about £20). I agreed but could not get out of there fast enough. It had been horrific enough without having to go and explain what I'd done to customer services!
I scoured the local papers for the next few weeks hoping for a headline screaming 'Brentwood Gazette seeks local Angel - did you pay for an old geezers grub in a random act of kindness?'
I guess he just wasn't grateful enough to go to the local press.