Sunday, 10 June 2012

Welcome greatness, it lives all around you!!

How many times in our lives shall we get to save someone's life or help a challenged person or even offer our seat to a deserving person?

The Gulf
B'day return gift, a flower pot, from one of our small friendsWalking across the road, I noticed an appraoching car and hastened to cross. Soon finding myself alone on the median, I turned around. My acquaintance, who owned multiple vehicles, was still walking at a leisurely pace. Later he grinned while showering this advice with a sense of pride, "Sir, you don't have to run. The driver will slow down". I asked in return,"How do you feel if someone slows you down like this?".

The gulf between our actions and expectations could not have been more palpable.

Dredging up the Ocean
Sometimes a simple ordinary question flummoxes us. Our mind unlocks years of experiences striving to dredge up at least some semblance of an answer from its ocean of memories. Faced with the prospect of responding without conviction, we tend to resort to clarifications or definitions.

"When and what was your last selfless act of kindness?". The question drew a smile and raised eyebrows at first but left me wondering eventually. Your last selfless act of kindness! Think about it before proceeding.

"Easy enough", mind whispered before plunging into its ocean. As it waded back and forth across time, seconds were slipping into minutes with no glimpse of a 'kind' experience. Memory bubbles were bursting everywhere. The few glittering 'kind ones' that I could cling to were pricked by 'selfless' test. It was not an easy question. Though I managed to dredge up something but the intense consuming quest left a tinge of disappointment with the self.

"How about others?", I wondered, as if it would make a difference (or soothe my ego). Over the next few days, I had many of my friends embark upon their individual 'treasure' hunt. Navigating back in their oceans, they reported experiences dating back to months or even years. Some of them were interesting while others brought new perspectives. Few among us had the courage to admit bursting all. There was only one response narrating an act from previous day!! Just one!!

This, however, doesn't imply we aren't kind. We believe ourselves to be one. But then where are our bubbles?

A Case of 'Selective' Kindness
We relish being recipients of kindness or even expect it from others. Look at few of these everyday situations and our wish from a stranger:

1. In a supermarket the person ahead of you, with overflowing trolley, starts paying. You, with few items, wish he had offered you to go ahead first.
2. You are on the slip/side road waiting to enter main traffic. You wish incoming driver slows down slightly allowing you to merge in.
3. In a common area like canteen while you are waiting for an empty table, people, having finished their lunch, are chatting literally ignoring your presence. You wish they had vacated tables without your request.
4. You are in lobby when a person enters and starts the elevator. You wish he had waited for you.

5. It is raining. Everyone has umbrella but you. You wish someone offers to drop you to your car.
6. You are at the door when a person, who just crossed, releases it without looking back. You wish she/he had held it for couple of moments more.

Now how ironic it is that our own circle of kindness normally excludes strangers. In fact, sometimes we act in a way diametrically opposite to how we 'wish' others should have acted in a situation. We shall rarely act like 'that' if the other person were to be our acquaintance.

Another 'natural' filter is our perspective - relating to kindness as an act for the one really in need of help. While 'real/big' opportunities are rare, 'small' ones are all around us but go unnoticed on most occasions.

Situational vs Conscious Kindness
Though kind at heart, our kindness, however, lives in a 'dormant' state. It needs an external trigger - an event or situation - for activation. While most triggers never reach our ocean, few do manage to create ripples of thoughts. The act, however, still remains a rarity. Some of the situations might have inconvenienced or even annoyed us, and would challenge others too, but our action is mere expression of frustration. We don't feel it beyond ourselves or even hope that 'someone' will address it anyway, a case of "Diffusion of Responsibility".

Conscious kindness, on the other hand, is an already active state, self-activated. It is a way of life and works inside-out. It is an awareness of feelings, needs and emotions of living beings. And that includes self too. It helps register even the faintest of triggers but doesn't solely rely on them. How does one self-activate it?

Just let yourself slip into other person's shoes. Empathize for them and opportunities will unveil themselves. Act and then watch how bubbles form in your ocean. It is that simple. Our 'selective' and 'situational' kindness is rarely intentional or selfish. Rather it stems from our lack of active empathy - unable to promptly slip into others' shoes - and that builds unawareness.

The Beautiful Strangers
What does overwhelm you more - a kind gesture from a known person OR a stranger? Here are some of the unique situations and acts of kindness that were shared with me. You may want to think about your response in each situation before reading the act too:

1. In sweltering 40+C summer, you slow down and stop your AC car near a traffic signal. All sorts of unruly motorists and pedestrians are being frenetically directed by traffic cops. Worse, drivers in the perpendicular lane have blocked half your lane. What goes in your mind?
-The person crosses the signal, parks the car and returns with two chilled water bottles for the cops leaving them amazed with smiles.
2. We have encroached on their natural habitat. Twig and feather homes on trees are now concrete glass boxes on RCC columns. Little 'natives' do visit us once in a while. What do they want on a hot summer day?
-Check this "video clip" from the person
3. Last few weeks have been taxing you/team hard leaving everyone stressed. You feel like taking a small break. What do you do next?
-The person takes a break and gets water/coffee for the whole team.
4. A street lamppost fence is broken with a part protruding from its edge. You must maneuver your car to avoid damage. What do you do?
-The person steps out of the car, pushes the fence back inside and then moves on.
5. You spot a visually challenged man attempting to cross the road. What do you do next?
-The person doesn't just help him cross but walks him to his destination 20 minutes away.
6. You are in a mall and have shopped extensivley in a store that also provides courtesy parking coupons. What do you do?
-The person requests two coupons and uses the second one to pay for the car behind.
7. You graduated from the university and have books not commonly available.
-The person donates them to library than keeping with self or selling or giving to friends.
8. On your way to building's parking lot, you find people relaxing post dinner in the late evening breeze and chatting animatedly.
-The person dims car headlights to avoid them the glare.

Do you still think there are not enough opportunities?
Welcome greatness, it lives all around you. - Jim Rohn


  1. Hi Vinod - i am so impressed by your flair for writing - articulate and depth of thoughts ! okay so i am happy to tell you that i was kind today - gave money 2 two of my domestic helps to buy an umbrella :) !!!

    1. Glad that you liked it. And thank you for sharing your kind act. In fact, sharing them with wider audience is also a rarity. If we share them proactively, it will encourage others, give them new ideas and lead to more similar acts.


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