Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Quora Question: How can I learn to be more kind?

The first act of kindness was bestowed upon me when I was a small child. It was my first day at primary school. I vividly remember my mum holding my hand, passing these tall gates, then suddenly letting go and waving goodbye. I entered the playground, there was lots of noise from the children playing. All the good toys had been taken, there was nothing for me. I hid away in the corner feeling alone. A single tear drop falls down my face. Then from a distance I see a girl coming towards me, she smiles and pushes a pram with a doll inside to me, then she just walks away. That girl was called Jody and she became my childhood friend.

Then one day I got angry from one of my friends stealing my Barbie clothes from me. I ran to my dad who gets me to sit with him on the sofa and watch Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. I see tears in his eyes. “Dad, why are you crying,” I said. He said, “Abida, I was a young child during the partition. I remember walking for days without food, seeing dead bodies along the way, and I had lost my parents. I didn’t know whether they were dead or alive. We went from having a good standard of living in India to having to start all over again in the newly formed Pakistan. I learnt the importance of education, I studied hard, swimming across the river each morning to get to my school. I gained the highest marks in Mathematics in the country, a scholarship to study in the UK, and became successful in my chosen field. I never forgot where I came from though. When you see someone that hasn’t got much, please help them, learn to share.” I later learnt after his death that my dad gave money to poor people in his childhood village (they’d contracted Hepatitis and needed money for medication).

Two years ago, I met a nurse. I was paralysed with fear, I couldn’t face watching my dad die. She tightly grabbed my hand and led the way into his room. I watched her chat to him (despite him being in a coma), massage his body with moisturiser, and shave his face. I was humbled by her kindness.

Then it was my turn. One Winter, on my morning walk to Pret, I happened to pass a homeless girl who was sitting on the floor begging for money. Some guy in a suit accidently kicked the hat which housed her change but he was too busy talking on his phone to notice. It was really cold, and the young homeless girl (she must have been in her mid-late teens) had no coat and was shivering and frantically trying to collect the tossed change together. As I walked into Pret, my heart sank (I remembered Jody, and what my dad told me); I got my usual hot chocolate and croissant and also got the girl the same. I stood in front of her and kneeled down and gave her my coat and food. The smile on her face was priceless, she looked up at me and mouthed ‘thank you’. I had such a warm feeling inside.

Whenever someone compliments me on being kind and grounded, I tell them that the real credit goes to people that have inspired me throughout my life. From Jody, my dad to the intensive care nurse. I’m sure there will be more to add to that list in time.

Kindness anyone can cultivate through choice. You can start by graciously acknowledging when someone has helped you, open doors, give up your seat to the elderly, taking flowers or wine when your friend invites you to dinner, help fellow colleagues out, keep in regular contact with friends, be there for people when they hit a rough patch, involve yourself in charity work. The list is endless!

I’ll always remember the times in my life when I’ve needed help. Kindness is an act of genuinely caring and wanting to help others, I never ask for anything in return…

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