Our writer reminisces about a random act of kindness that didn’t seem much at the time, but turned out to impact two people’s lives for the better...
Memory can be such a funny thing. Psychologists say that when you’re able to recall a specific memory with such clarity, it’s usually because of how emotionally charged that experience was. Lately, my mind kept replaying a couple of incidents that didn’t seem like a big deal to me back then. But on Random Acts of Kindness Day (which falls on 17 February) these recollections make me reflect.
There’s a Malay saying that goes, “Ada hikmah disebaliknya”, which translates to “everything that happens has wisdom behind it.” Perhaps this applied in this scenario, and I only realise it now…
A little backstory
In my twenties, I was an avid clubber. You could spot me on the dance floor almost every weekend! This particular night was no different. It was past midnight, AKA the night was still young. The loud blasting music, sweaty bodies, the bar packed with drunk friends chugging severely watered-down concoctions. Just another clubbing night, basically.
Hands washed, I exited the bathroom and was about to make my way back to the dancefloor when I spotted someone sprawled out on the floor nearby. Why is he on the floor? Is he okay? Maybe he drank too much? Did something happen? These thoughts ran through my head. (Yes folks, my noggin still worked at that moment!) I told my friend to wait for me while I approached this unknown body on the floor.
A random act of kindness
Excuse me sir, when J.Lo instructed us to get on the floor, she didn’t mean it literally! I asked if he was okay. I also wanted to ask if anything untoward happen to him and if I could offer any assistance. He seemed drunk, but he managed to slur out his responses. He assured me that he’d be fine. I asked again, just to be sure. He confirmed that he was indeed okay, so I left him be (on the floor, mind you) and reconvened with my friend.
Now you’re probably thinking: Suf, why and how is this even a random act of kindness? Sure, it’s not the biggest or most elaborate gesture of kindness in the world. But, dear readers, most of the population would not think to help someone unless the situation turned serious. The bystander effect is pretty prevalent here in Singapore, unfortunately.
I cannot remember if I saw him again later that night (I’m sure I did), but I did see him again a few weeks after. We managed to be acquainted with each other properly and even became Facebook friends! (Yes yes, I’m old old…) It was good to see him bouncing back after that night. As the months passed, I appeared in the club less and less until I stopped going altogether. My clubbing days had passed, and floor guy was but a distant memory.
A chance meeting again
Fast forward to a few years later – a weeknight at The Projector. I was attending an event with another friend. The place was teeming with people. I stood alone for a bit while my friend made acquaintances. I happened to turn my head and noticed someone looking directly at me and grinning. ‘Was that directed at me?’ I thought to myself. I wasn’t sure what to do. I turned back to my friend instead.
Smiley guy came close and tapped my shoulder. I turned around; we were now facing each other up close. Am I supposed to know this person? The smile he gave was one of happiness and excitement – as if we had lost contact for some years and finally managed to reconcile. “You don’t remember me, do you?” I squinted my eyes and shook my head, bemused. “You checked on me that time when I was on the floor in the club.” It took a good few seconds before it finally dawned on me. You couldn’t imagine how surprised I was that he still remembered who I was and what I had done! We hugged and chatted briefly. I was in awe.
A few lessons learned
As I’m writing this and recollecting the two events, I’m still in awe at how my random act of kindness managed to help someone out. And, he still remembered it years later. “You didn’t have to do what you did. But you did it anyway. You were so kind.” That’s what he had said to me that night at The Projector. That revelation touched me.
Signy Sheldon, an assistant professor at McGill University in Canada, previously explained that what we remember can help us learn lessons. And there are a few things that I’ve learned from those chance encounters:
1. Everyone deserves kindness
We don’t know how someone’s feeling or how their day went. It’s a combination of unknown and unseen factors. So, we shouldn’t assume anything. What we can – and should – do is to show everyone kindness. Because they deserve it. Plain and simple.
2. If you do offer help, don’t expect anything in return
Maybe now you understand why I call this a random act of kindness. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. There’s nothing in it for me, TBH. I’m not trying to pick someone up – especially someone drunk and who can’t make decisions properly. I genuinely was just checking on a person’s well-being. Are they okay? If they are, great. If they’re not, perhaps I can help. That’s all. So when you offer to help someone out, never think, “What’s in it for me?”. That’s a no-no.
3. Every little bit helps – no matter how small
When the other party does accept your offer to help, know that every bit counts. Even if all you’re able to do is stand beside them, hold their hand, and hug them. This is helpful too! Don’t ever think and say: “Sorry I couldn’t be of much help.” Your presence per se is good enough. Yes, even to strangers. Anything else is a bonus.
Author Roy T. Bennett once said: “A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life.” In my case, it impacted two lives. As I contemplated the two events, I realised that being kind towards a stranger made me feel better. And seeing him again years later, I’m thrilled by how far he’s come. His transformation made me immensely proud of him. I may not be a part of his life, but I did something at a point in time when it mattered. I played a role.
Can you recall a random act of kindness that has left an impact on you or someone else? DM us – we’d love to hear it.