I originally wrote a post pondering whether it is difficult to be kind, on 11th October 2014, just a little over 4 years ago now (original post can be found here). I contemplated why it seemed to be so difficult to do small kind actions. 4 years on, I still don’t have the answer, but I think that my perception of the term ‘kindness’ has changed. Of course there’s the kindness that we all know to be obvious, but I’m referring to the smaller actions that are maybe one person’s kindness, but somebody else’s something else?
I should probably explain, I’m sure you’re thinking what the hell am I on about.
I take the bus to work every day, and see pretty much the same people, one of these being a lovely man who I say a simple ‘hello’ to; a tradition which started some years ago. I have spoken with him on a few occasions, but nothing more than small talk. I noticed he hadn’t been on the bus for a while, but he’s recently made a reappearance, now sporting a crutch and sitting on the lower level. I observed how he is looking a little worn out and almost in pain, and as days goes on he is looking worse, which made me wonder if he is going through something quite serious. This, in turn, led me to wonder whether he is in need of any support.
Too often, you hear stories about people (predominantly elderly) who are lonely or in need of assistance, yet don’t have anybody they can ask for help. I thought about this kind man, who whilst not elderly, is clearly less mobile and I wondered whether he has anybody to support him. I know that he lives in the same area as me, and we have a car, I could do some shopping or general errands for him if he is struggling to get about. Because I possess an innate tendency to over-complicate anything I ever do, it took me a week or so to muster up the courage to approach him (I don’t even know his name!) I explained that I noticed he’s on a crutch and asked whether he needed anything at all. Why did I do that? Because I wanted to help. Does that mean he needed help? No. It doesn’t. Even James asked me “why do you always have to do things like this?”. For the next week I felt like I was the monkey covering his eyes emoji.
In hindsight I should have just minded my own business. Well isn’t retrospect is a wonderful thing? He was quite taken aback, and thanked me but explained he has two daughters caring for him. I think I may have offended him by letting him know how poorly he looked and maybe I made him feel older and sicker than he actually is. I’m not sure how I do this, but I do have an incredible tendency to offend people when I don’t intend to at all. I don’t even know what’s wrong with him. I’m now literally some random weirdo on the bus who asked if I can do his shopping for him.
I kept trying to tell myself, imagine if he didn’t have anybody and he did need some assistance. Surely it was worth going through a little embarrassment and potentially offending somebody to find out that he didn’t need help, than to never have asked and him be suffering? I’m not really sure. I think so. But it did raise the question, is there a need for what you perceive to be ‘kindness’ or is there a need to mind your own business? Or am I, Queen of Overthinking, simply overthinking?
A similar thing happened a few years ago, except I didn’t actually act. I was sat in my car at the beach front back home in Liverpool. I saw a girl alone and crying in her car. My instant reaction was to get out of my car and check whether she was OK and try to provide some comfort. I sent a text to a friend explaining the situation and asking her what she would do, because let’s be honest, I’m not the best at these things am I? She advised to leave the girl be – that just like I was at the beach for some head space, it’s likely that so was she, and didn’t want to be disturbed. I felt awful, but I tried to see it from somebody else’s viewpoint rather than my own. Thank god for friends ey, or I’d be out there annoying anyone I can get hold of!
I still don’t know what the answer is to my original questions. People are going through things that you can’t help with, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least try to offer something the only way I know how – whether that’s annoying or offensive or not. It’s difficult to know when or when not to be what you perceive to be ‘kind’, for fear of somebody else seeing it as interfering, and that I should mind my own business.
But where is the line between kindness and minding your own business?