I sat on a chair at the entrance of a printing shop, waiting for the mock-up of my next book. The lady at the counter told me it would take an hour, but now it seemed like ages ago. The outlet was one of many in the huge, white-washed building. In front of me, men and women strode past. Almost everyone I caught sight of appeared to be in a hurry for some reason.
Out of the blue, I felt the urge to answer the call of nature. I stood up and began to hunt for the toilet. One flight up the stairs and there it was, a sign that confirmed I had found what I was looking for. But the door was locked. I tried to prise it open. No luck.
“May I help you, Ma’am?” I turned to my right and I saw a young man, beaming. Dressed in a crisp shirt and pants, he looked too important to be paying attention to someone else.
“I’m looking for the washroom,” I said.
“This one is unusable,” he said kindly, “but I have the key to the one upstairs. It’s right next to the elevator.” He handed me a key. I must have looked perplexed, for the next thing he said was, “Everyone who runs an office here gets to keep a key.” As I rode the elevator I wondered, How could he trust me, a total stranger? What if I don’t return the key to him?
Half an hour later, I found my way to the prayer room in the building complex. Dhuhr would be in a few minutes. A lady walked in and spread a worn but elegant prayer rug in front of me. Another kind gesture I didn’t expect. I smiled, she smiled back. Just then, a male voice recited the iqama, the second call to prayer, the signal that prayer was about to begin.
The voice sounded familiar . . . Of course! It’s the young man who lent me the key. My heart brimmed with gratitude. Thank you, Allah, for connecting me with just the right person who was in the perfect position and capacity to help me.
I am convinced kindness should be the currency we live by today, the hope of the future. The Prophet Muhammad S.A.W (Peace be upon Him) said: “The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.” – Tirmidhi, narrated by Aisha and Abdullah ibn Abbas.
What a profound yet simple message! It is easy for us to be kind, to show our best perfect selves, to people we meet on the street, to friends and acquaintances who might not know our true nature. But being consistently kind to members of our household might be harder than we think. Oh, the daily annoyances that come with family! Yet, our ability to be kind to the people closest to us is the acid test of who we are.
Quite likely, someone must have taught that young man I met how to be kind. What kind things can you do today that can make a difference to someone near and dear?
If you live with your parents, and they drive you up the wall with their demands and expectations, and you are desperately looking for something to cure them, try the kindness potion. Here are three ideas for you: 1) serve them a hearty breakfast you made 2) get them a glass of water when they get home from work 3) buy them a little gift from the money you saved, from the allowance they gave you. It just might turn your parents around. You’ll see.
If you are married and your relationship isn’t working the way you want, these three kind acts might up your love bank account: 1) Say “Your father / mother is my hero” in front of your children when you know your spouse is listening 2) Tell your spouse one good thing his / her parents did 3) Forgive your spouse every night before you fall asleep.
Let us extend this idea to the people in our neighbourhood. You and I don’t live in a vacuum. After the family unit, neighbours are the building blocks of community. If you have a neighbour who has just moved in nearby, perhaps you could go the extra mile to make them feel welcome. You could: 1) invite them over for tea 2) send them a baked dish or seasonal fruits 3) let them know the bits and bytes of your community. Every single act of kindness you do will make their hearts a little warmer to you. You never know when it might be returned, if not directly to you, then perhaps to your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
As Albert Schweitzer says, “Constant kindness can accomplish a lot. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Kindness is the key that might just unlock the goodness and the best within those around you.[ends]
NOTE: This story was originally published on page 35 (Opinion Section) in the September edition of the bilingual Alwasat newspaper, dubbed as ‘the voice of Australian Muslims’, based in Melbourne. The Arabic section is from page 1 – 17 and the English section is from page 18 onwards. Check out: http://issuu.com/alwasat2011/docs/september__2014/3?e=3102827%2F9623394