Wednesday 20 June 2012

The Kindness of a Stranger

This article was first published on The Vegetarian Experience on 16th November 2011

Hi, I am not blogging so much this week as I have a really big essay deadline I am trying to meet for my university course, but I thought I would take a quick break from essay writing to tell you about something that happened to me last night, and to see what you would have done in my situation.

So, last night I took the kids to the supermarket and we did our shopping. Both kids don't enjoy the supermarket experience and I typically find it stressful if we have to go and do a "big shop", but we had no food in the house and so needs must and all that.

After an hour of traipsing round the supermarket we got to the till and our shopping was all scanned, packed and I just had to pay. Having lost my debit card this week, I only had my credit card to fall back on, plus a little spare cash in my purse. Additionally, I wanted to add a balance to my christmas savings card as the bonus will be given in the next couple of weeks. So I added the balance to the savings card and handed over my credit card to pay. 

And then I heard those words everyone dreads whilst at the checkout: "It's declined". Yes, because my kind credit card company had sold all of their customers over to BarclayCard but not sent me another credit card to pay with, my card with a 2013 expiry card was now defunct and refused to work. Joy!

Ok, not a problem I said, I'll pay with the cash I have got and then you can take the rest off of the savings card. So the Checkout assistant did this, but somehow managed to swipe the card too many times and in doing so, locked the savings card so that I could not use this either. So there we were, at the checkout and 

Nothing to pay with!

By this time, 10 minutes had passed by, the girls were fidgeting and the queue behind me were starting to give me angry stares. The checkout operator called her supervisor who said that even though it was their error for swiping the card too many times, I would have to pay 20 pounds there and then, or put 20 pounds worth of my shopping back.

Suddenly, a voice from behind me said:

'I'll pay for the shopping, you have your kids with you and you obviously need the food for them'.

Yes, the young man behind me had kindly offered to pay for my shopping. I was so shocked because how often does that happen? - not very often where I live. Normally the young men in my town are better known for taking drugs, drinking, hanging round the streets, committing crime and anti social behaviour. 

Even though I was so humbled by his offer, and reduced to tears, I would never have taken him up on it in a million years and so thanked him profusely but said I could never accept and rifled through my bags to put all the unnecessary items back.

But it really made me think as I was driving home, would I go the extra mile for a complete stranger? or Would I ever have accepted a stranger's kind offer?  I think that if I had been in dire straits financially, I probably would have, but not feeling like a charity case, I couldn't let him pay as we had the money, it just wasn't there physically.

What would you do? Would you have accepted his offer? Would you go the extra mile for a stranger?

Would you let them go in front of you at the checkout, stop to help someone who had broken down, pay for their coffee in Starbucks or even pay for their weekly shop if they were short? Would you do something so simple as hold open a door behind you, or let someone out of a side road into a queue of traffic? Would you selflessly play secret santa to a friend in need, wash your neighbours car or even pick up a piece of litter as you walk by it?

I love this Flash mob which features such a thing.

There is a great website called Random Acts of Kindess which I have often frequented. As the festive season approaches it really challenged me to think of random acts that I could do for other people. We are starting with a few including the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox scheme and also our church is doing a program where they are sending gifts from Dad's in prison to their children so we hope to participate in this too, but I will be thinking hard about what Random Acts of Kindness I can carry out to make a stranger's day better.

So I would like to say THANK YOU to the random stranger who was so willing to help me yesterday, you have really challenged me to think about what I an do for others to pass your kind act forward and I am so grateful that you offered to help me in my hour of need.

Edit.. I did my random act today by giving a lift to a lovely young man who was training to be a monk and needed a lift into town 3 miles away..... truly random..

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