Some weeks back, I was at the Doctor’s for an appointment and had to have a blood test. I had been there a couple of times and was familiar with the place; I knew exactly where everything was, whom I had to speak to, whom I had to hand my forms to. Every medical facility is run differently, and if it’s your first visit, you might naturally feel a little lost.
The room for blood tests was located in the basement level of the building. As I headed to get my blood drawn for the umpteenth time that month, I noticed a local lady dressed in a black abaya waiting at the lift. She must have been waiting awhile as she was shifting around impatiently before pressing the button again. Now, there are some strange lifts here that will ‘undo’ an action when you press the button a second time. So, there this lady was, getting impatient and perplexed at why the lift didn’t seem to be coming down. Her face was tense and there were creases in her forehead as she frowned.
I walked up and pressed the button again. Sure enough, the button lit up and a loud clunk assured us that the lift was finally moving. As we waited, the lady looked at me and asked me something. Unfortunately, she was speaking in Arabic and I couldn’t understand what she wanted. But I saw that she was holding the pink and white form for blood tests so I told her, while pointing to the form, that she had to go downstairs. We spoke in Arabic and English respectively (but mainly with gestures) and somehow kind of understood each other. We got in the lift together and when we reached the basement, I signalled for her to follow me and led her to the room. Pointing inside, I told her to go in for her blood test first.
“Shokran”, she uttered with a huge smile as her face relaxed. Finally, a word I understood. I appreciated her thanks, but the relieved smile on her face was enough to make me feel like my day was complete. She had probably been feeling anxious and lost as it looked like it was her first time at the clinic, and just helping her out could have made her feel a little bit less alone. I would have felt the same in her shoes and would certainly have welcomed a little kindness. We were both having our own struggles that day, but in that moment, we were facing them together.
Sometimes, all it takes is one small gesture. We take so many things for granted and are getting increasingly demanding of our needs, our wants, our rights. Very often, this means we take our frustrations out on others when our demands are not met, or when they are not met soon enough. Even when our demands are fulfilled, we simply assume we have a right to it and forget to offer gratitude. We live in our own little bubble, only concerned with our own lives and needs. How often do we stop for another person? When do we remember to show kindness to another?
In a world that moves way too quickly, that is scarily becoming less capable of gratitude, that sometimes feels devoid of real concern, I worry that my child will grow up feeling entitled, without any desire to be kind to others. When I was growing up, a phrase that I used to hear from my grandmother and parents was “zuo ren”. They often bandied this term around, and in my limited capacity for the chinese dialect, I understand it as “being a person”, or just being decent to others. My eldest sister adds that to her, it means being humane and doing the right thing. My grandmother used to tell me (especially on my birthdays) that I must be able to “be a person”. This has certainly been wise advice, something that will always remind me of my grandmother, and which reminds me to be kind and decent. It’s something that I try to strive for, and which I keep close to my heart.
All it takes is a smile, a hello, a tiny nod, a word of thanks, a helping hand, to make someone else feel acknowledged, appreciated or less alone. It isn’t difficult to be kind. I’m glad this reminded me of my grandmother, I am definitely passing on her invaluable advice to my children.
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