Thursday, 13 November 2014

Random Acts of Kindness

Following on from the posting a few days ago about inconsiderate boaters refusing to move to give enough space for another boat to moor up. It started me thinking about what we all could do to improve the situation.

As a child there was an unwritten understanding that you would help the 'oldies' who lived around you. My mother called it being a 'good neighbour'. (I can only assume that everything else was considered as being an indifferent neighbour)  Back then we knew everybody in the locality on different levels, kids knew each other at school. Mothers knew each other as they met in the local shop. Dads often met down at the local pub. It was common for neighbour to visit neighbour and keeping an eye on an elderly person living alone was the norm.

For the children, it was often characterised as being the 'Boy Scout' helping an old lady across the road.  Or the policeman stopping traffic while children and mothers crossed the road. There are many phrases used to describe such actions. Doing your 'good deed' for the day or in more modern parlance 'lending a helping hand'. Others might call it 'good manners' as you held a door open or gave way to someone in a narrow place.

By the beginning of the 1960's all this seemed to be coming to an end. We moved into a new house and at best we might just about be on first name terms with our neighbours on either side. Now it was called 'minding your own business'. What my mother called 'kalling' meaning, having a conversation over a cup of tea with a neighbour. Was now a thing of the past.  Today there are adverts on TV in the winter months asking you to keep an eye on elderly neighbours. Now there are 'home helps' and 'meals on wheels' who do what neighbours once did for their neighbours. Now its someone's job to do, what close knit communities once did.

But there are people out there who still have those old neighbourly traits. Though its displayed in a different way. Its so unusual, that a new name has been coined to describe it.  We now call it 'random acts of kindness'.  There is even a Random Acts Of Kindness Foundation.  The 13th of November is Random Acts Of Kindness day and 9th to the 15th of February is Random Acts of Kindness week.

I suppose its a bit like the Canal and River Trust, but with all the wheels still on the CaRT. The trust in evicting vulnerable boaters from their homes, leaving them stood in what they were wearing on the towpath. Vulnerable fellow boaters who have serious health problems.  Is still seen by the vast majority of  people as a callous, uncaring and uncharitable action.  Certainly one that could never be considered as being in any way an Act of Kindness.

But all is not lost - even in this dog eat dog world. Random acts of kindness can still manifest themselves in many ways. A few days ago as I came round a bend I saw a lady boater turn around and go back to a lock, that she had just closed the gate on, and then open the gate again.  She did not have to do it - I like to think that she never gave it another thought. But - and this is the important bit - this simple act was not lost on me. Because, if we just take the time to look, we will often see little random acts done. Done without a moments thought, done for thoughtless but truly altruistic reasons. 

I repaid the kindness with a smile and a simple thumbs up 'thank you'. I got a warm smile in return. This set me to thinking. (A dangerous thing not to be encouraged)  maybe we should return to that era where we did 'good deeds' and 'lending a helping hand'. Rather than be a considerate boater we just do random acts of kindness for each other.  Don't leave gaps in moorings, invite others to share your mooring ring. Don't wait to be asked, but offer to let boats breast up. In this way the inconsiderate boater might be encouraged to change their ways.  I know, its a big ask - go on do it - you know you want to.  You will meet new people, strangers who might just become, life long friends. You don't even have to do it for altruistic reasons - just do it and feel good!

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