Random Acts of Kindness

thankyou150px-22272245Dear ISR,
Some days I feel that the nature of this site results in a focus on the negative aspects of living overseas to the detriment of sharing the wonderful, and life altering, beautiful moments found only by truly immersing oneself in another culture. So to counteract all the tales of administrative abuse, neglect and frustration, let’s share some stories of random acts of kindness. Here are just two of the many I have experienced…

  Once, while wandering a market in Northern Italy, I was stopped by a woman gesturing frantically at the sling that I carried my sleeping newborn daughter in. My first thought was that she was going to give me a hard time for having a baby so young out in public. The cultural norm there is to over bundle children and shelter them from crowds until they are about two years old. I prepared for the ration I figured I was about to get, but instead the woman, through gestures and pointing, alerted me to the fact that my child had leaked through her diaper and the sling. She took me gently by the hand to the area behind her stall, laid down a blanket and cooed and sung to my baby while I cleaned up everyone involved. Then she handed me a warm bread roll, patted me on the shoulder with a one-mother-to-another warmth and sent me on my way. It was a small gesture but one that made me feel like a welcomed member of a community.

  Another random act of kindness occurred in Pakistan within days of my arrival. I was new to the experience of driving on the “wrong” side of the street and misjudged my proximity to a gapping chasm of a pothole. Next thing I knew the van I was driving rolled right into this hole up to the frame. There was no way I was going to drive out of the hole with the front wheels suspended in mid-air, and I was at a complete loss staring dejectedly at the lopsided vehicle with no idea who to call or what to do next. Within a few minutes, while I still pondered my next move, auto rickshaw drivers began to stop, get out of their vehicles and gather nearby. In my slightly paranoid, American mind, they gathered to mock and view the spectacle, but suddenly they all seemed to come to a consensus and moved towards the van and me. Without a word they took up positions around the van and together lifted, rocked and pushed the van out of the hole. Each was beaming ear-to-ear as they ushered me back into the vehicle and guided me safely around the mother of all potholes. They waved as I drove away. Not a word was understood between any of us and not a cent asked for. They saw a person in need and lent a helping hand.

  It is easy, when surrounded by a world that is strange, to get wrapped up in the feeling of being alone or an outsider. Some of these schools are miserable to be at, some countries hate the western world, and some places are just not our cup of tea, but you never know when you might experience a random act of kindness that makes it all seem quite okay.  I would love to hear other teachers’ stories of random act of kindness?

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15 Responses to Random Acts of Kindness

  1. GoodeNews says:

    Here is my contribution to this interesting blog. I was very ill in Karachi, PAKISTAN recently. My driver not only took me to the hospital but remained until 1am when I was admitted and settled in bed before he went home.. i really appreciated this because I had no friends nor relatives there.

    Secondly, in Hong Kong on New Year’s eve a Chinese storekeeper helped me to repair my camera which suddenly stopped working.
    Thank you for the reminder.
    There are many good, kind people in the world.

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  2. Dr. Barbara Spilchuk says:

    When in Kuwait, I found the owners of the school very giving!!! My Indian driver was lovely and my Executive Assistant was spectacular. One of the teachers was Bedouin – she and her brother stayed with me at the airport until I left. They are still in contact with me today. I didn’t stay for the full length of my contract in this location for many reasons but there were people there whom I consider to be life friends – people who showed me love and compassion in a very ‘strange to me’ place indeed. I have many other people in my international background like this – there are amazing people everywhere in this world!

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  3. s says:

    When I first moved to Beijing, I was riding my bike through the local village between our home and school. I had been buying vegetables and fruit, and met a young woman selling fruit who had a little English, and chatted and bought some things before going on my way home. I immediately got turned around, and couldn’t find my way home, so I went back to the young woman to ask directions. Her English wasn’t enough to explain, and I hadn’t learned any Chinese at that point, so she immediately sent a friend out to find another friend who spoke fluent English. This friend, insisted on guiding me all the way back to my home on his bike, even though it must have been out of his way. I remained friends with the young fruit seller and her family throughout our time in Beijing, and remain in contact to this day!

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  4. Anonymous says:

    In Korea shopping is a contact sport. Little old ladies will use their elbows to move forward in lines, etc. On one particular day, I decided to go to a grand opening in a supermarket. While shopping I had been pushed, elbowed, had my foot stamped on, etc. I decided to finishing up the shopping and leave the store as fast as possible when a little old lady raced over to my trolley, grabbed my eggs and bag of rice and took off. That was almost more than I could take. How dare this woman shop out of my trolley!!!!!

    So I decided that was enough and I would get in the check out line. It was a very long, long line. Imagine my surprise to see people pushed out of the way behind me and when they parted here came the same old rude woman!!! In her hands she had eggs and rice. She put one of each into my cart and smiled. Then she pointed at an opening flyer, written only in Korean, which clearly showed that brand of eggs and that bag of rice to be offered at a very low special opening price. I had no idea until that moment that the woman was actually helping me. I felt so embarrassed. She disappeared before I could thank her. I felt so ashamed that I automatically thought the worst of her.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I had just been in-country for about 3 days and was suffering a lot with jet lag. I made it to the grocery store in the upscale mall and did my shopping and made it home only to discover my mobile phone had been stolen out of my pocket. I went back to the mall to retrace my steps but it did not work. Luckily all my money had been in a money belt, at my waist, under my clothing.

    Desperate to find an internet connection with device, I got the great idea of asking at the mall information desk. I figured because they could speak English they would know where to find an international hotel so I could use the business center’s internet to cancel/change account passwords since my entire life was on that mobile.

    The mall information desk employees let me use their internet connected laptop for free, brought me an ice cold water bottle, and personally put me in a taxi with notes written in the local language of where to go to buy a new mobile and simcard. They apologized profusely for my bad experience in their country.

    Even though I was very angry about my mobile being stolen, their kindness and help really reminded me that there are also many good people in the world.

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  6. lesley says:

    my family moved to the uae about 4 years ago. when we bought our first 4 x 4 gmc we thought we could park it on the sand near the mosque during general prayer. however, when we returned we could not move forward or back and the car sunk further into the sand. several men nearby saw our predicament and with their help they knew exactly what to do and we were soon on our way. I have seen many stranded people in cars helped this way.

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  7. kaitlin says:

    A few years ago in the middle East I found I needed an expensive repair job done on my car. I asked a local lady where would be a good place to take the car.She not only took me the garage her husband owned (I had no idea they owned a garage when I asked) but had the job done there and then while I waited…..and afterwards would not accept a penny.

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  8. Judy says:

    No matter where my husband and I were in China, people always made us feel at home. One night my husband went for a walk by himself. He found a cool little shop and went in to look around. The owner didn’t speak English, but invited him to sit down and proceeded to show him how to make a traditional Chinese tea. They offered him cigarettes and through hand gestures and such they had a nice little conversation. We went back several times just to say Hi and do a bit of shopping at times. That was just one of many instances of kindness.

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  9. Lana says:

    What a great way to celebrate the positive experiences we have internationally… thank you for that reminder. My husband’s car broke down in the middle of the streets in Amman, Jordan and had no money to grab a cab or any knowledge of how to get a to a mechanic. A total “stranger” stopped his car… offered to take him to a mechanic… then drove the mechanic as well as my husband back to the car to get it fixed. The mechanic had to tow the truck but made sure to give my husband 5 JDs to grab a taxi to get back home. He remembers it to this day.

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  10. Linda Young says:

    I live in and teach in the Middle East. Random acts of kindness afea regular feature in my life. I find The Arabic people in my area often courteous and thoughtful. This is more so if I am by myself in the markets or on the streets.

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  11. Trish says:

    When we got to the airport in Mexico our flight had been permanently cancelled. We didn’t” have enough money to buy the more expensive ticket on another airline. The man behind us was trying to get onto the same flight. He had overheard our conversation and stepped up and offered to pay for our tickets along with his own. He gave us his business card so we could mail him the money once back home. This we did along with a thank you present. The man was a Mexican national who hardly spoke English. The world is full of wonderful people. My current director…..not so much.

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  12. John says:

    “I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers.” but then the world is full of, not strangers, but friends we haven’t met. New York, Boston, Lomé, Addis Ababa, London, Toronto, Montreal, Manama, Singapore, Djibouti, Tunis, Mombasa, Kampala, Cairo, Fort de France, even Paris, everywhere people waiting to help. It makes me want to be one of those people also.

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  13. Alan Tin-Win says:

    Passing through Russia at the New Year, my wife’s boarding pass was taken away by the Immigration officer and she was unable to get on her connecting flight. A complete stranger (fellow traveller) offered to lend her money for a hotel, the next day another local Russian lady helped & took her to the chief Immigration officer, who checked who had been on duty the night before and sorted things out.
    Passing through Dubai at Christmas, my friend was carrying a young baby. A stranger gave her an expensive bottle of perfume (Opium) and asked if she wanted his watch as well – saying “for baby”.
    When I first arrived in the UK, my HoD put me (a complete stranger) up at his house for a week until I found accommodation.
    In Bangkok, everybody was polite and helpful, willing to provide directions and went out of their way to show me where to go.
    In Khartoum, Sudan, it was quite common for strangers (who were eating a shared meal sitting around a large tray of food) to invite us to join them in the meal. During the month of Ramadan, if you were driving at sunset, there would be people flagging you down to come and share their meal.
    In Lima, Peru a colleagues’ wife (had never met them before) walked the streets with us for a week until we found a place to stay, showed us where to shop and took us under her wing.
    The list goes on… it’s a wonderful world – we are grateful and try to pass it on.

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  14. got the T shirt says:

    I’ve always been moved by the kindness extended to me as a guest in the many countries where I have lived, traveled and taught. Thanks ISR for reminding me of why I went overseas, and have stayed here. I’m in an awful school right (I should have believed the reviews I read) but I love the country and the community I live in more than more makes up for the school experience. Again, thanks for reminding me of the very positive side of being here. It’s all too easy to forget.

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  15. Jon Cristofer Miller says:

    Thank you for your reminder of the intrinsic pleasure of seeing the world as a global community. Teaching in South Korea a decade ago, my wife and I were repeatedly given assistance by strangers if we looked the least bit confused. It happened at air, bus, and train stops as well as in the markets. With people that we knew, it was even more so. Again, thank you for the reminder.

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