“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Emi

Living in such a fast paced society full of action and constant activity, we often forget to take a moment to breathe and notice the smaller things that occur around us.

I was flipping through Pinterest just the other day and came across the following quote by Beau Taplin from Little Light that reads: “Never underestimate the power of a small act of kindness. Sometimes a small gesture or a single moment of reassurance, even something as simple as a smile, can be enough to save a person. After all, even on the darkest nights, all it takes is a little light to illuminate the way forward.” 

On Tuesday, 10 July in a moment of sheer panic I was remind of the profound impact a random act of kindness can have. I was involved in a car accident on Oxford Road, a minor accident but nevertheless, a car accident is never a fun experience. Unfortunately the second party driver was an aggressive and confrontational individual that, in the moment, was making an effort to intimidate and threaten me. Then there was Adam, a calm and collected young gentleman who was stopped at the stop street parallel to where my accident took place. Seeing what was playing out, Adam took it in his stride to step in and attempt to calm the very aggressive driver down, something he was by no means obligated to do as by doing so he risked the aggression being projected onto him. He willingly stayed behind to ensure that I was safe and left unharmed. His name is Adam. I do not know his surname, his age or his background but in that moment, a random stranger I may never see again became a saving grace.

The incident got me thinking of how many of these moments we may miss daily. Whether as a receiver or witness, are we really aware of these random acts of kindness that occur around us? Are we ever the person that someone else is thanking for the kindness we share?

“No act of kindness no matter how small, is ever wasted,” – Aesop

This thought sparked an interest in me so I turned to my team and asked each of them to think of a random act of kindness they have received or witnessed recently:

Kurt: There are so many cool, spontaneous random acts of kindness around us. Sometimes we often miss these, because we are so caught up in our own day to day.  From small gestures, to well thought through acts of kindness. I strive to always be aware and do random acts of kindness wherever I go, I often see other people taking the time to make a difference in someone’s life, like the other day, I decided to buy a heater for my security house in my estate, small gesture that doesn’t cost a lot, but goes along way. Not only do I get to help them out with warmth, but I get to initiate conversation and build a relationship with them. A mate of mine decided to clear his cupboards and donated all his unused winter clothing to the less fortunate to keep them warm this winter. Last week I saw an elderly lady battling with her groceries and the cashier closed his till to help the lady. We need to all be more mindful of the people around us and how we can do a small gesture in order to make a small difference in someone’s life! One thing I try keep in mind, is to try make someone smile daily, whether it’s greeting someone in their home language, making a cup of tea for the tea lady, or making a simple joke in the office, it really goes a long way and is not difficult to do.

Rikus: The random act of kindness I experienced came from Carel for giving away half of his house to people that needs furniture and electronics. 

Carel: Kurt gave me a (very weird!) book on Obama – whom I love. 

GianlucaYes…An Uber driver not charging me as I am on crutches and waiting outside house of friend with me when they weren’t answering. 

Colin30.05.18 – Today I met Shepherd. He picks up dog shit in the park in the hope that someone will drop him a couple of bucks. He came to SA from Bulawayo because his grandmother has become too old to look after herself, or him. His parents are both dead. He dropped out of school in grade 6 because there was no money to pay for it. There is no work in Bulawayo. He sleeps in the canal that runs alongside the freeway. The shelter in Rosebank charges foreigners R300 per month for a bed and ablution facilities. Shepherd managed a month there, but then his money ran out. Last week a woman told him she would help him. She just had to pop to the ATM at the petrol station, she said, to bring him R300. He waited for her well into the night. She never returned. Now the nights are getting colder. Shepherd pleads for work wherever he can, but so far nothing has turned up. As he told me his story, he struggled to hold back his tears. He has no family. He knows nobody here. He’s probably about 19 or 20 years old.I wonder about Shepherd. I hope he’ll be okay. I gave him some fruit and an old hoodie. But he needs a lot more than that.

JosieI was having a really bad day the other day. I’m really struggling with work life balance at the moment. My “life” side is completely dominating and my work side not getting the attention I so wish to give it. This is largely because our nanny who has helped me raise Grace has left and she is struggling to acclimatize to our new Nanny and it’s making her very anxious. This means she only goes to me, Simon or my mother in law. The other day a nanny who I thought was fantastic and the answer to all my issues just never showed up to work and doesn’t want the job, the other Nanny who looks after my small baby called in sick, and so my day just came tumbling down. My mum in law swept in and took grace. Let her just follow her around for the day. Appointments, meetings, errands, and it meant I could look after Frankie and do some work at least while she slept. This act of kindness saved me that day. Grannies all over the world need massive appreciation for the help they give.

JoshuaThe other day I was at Vida, grabbing a coffee.We all love a bit of chocolate ever now and then.
Receiving a chocolate with your coffee is a real bonus and although it’s a regular feature at Vida, this certainly is a little act of kindness that can cheer up your day!

I was also reminded of an incident where my father was at Prime Piatti restaurant in the Port Elizabeth airport having a coffee. The restaurant was bustling with travellers that were putting pressure on the waiters to get their orders out quickly so they could board their flight on time. There was one particular waiter that stood out to my father – we was quick, efficient and did everything with a smile, working twice as hard as everyone else with passion and patience. Instead of a normal 10% tip, my father chose to give the waiter a large tip that covered far more than just the coffee. When I asked why, my father responded saying, “sometimes the greatest encouragement is acknowledgement and a thank you from a stranger that notices your efforts.” He still speaks of the waiters smile today.

I then chatted to Rob and Neo and was particularly interested in how different their answer were to the rest of the team.

Rob: Well, Megs baking rice crispy treats the other day because she knew I like them. Other than that, I can’t think of a random act of kindness I have witnessed. Maybe that is the point, in that a lot of it happens without having the world know, or instagramming about it or whatever?

Neo: Uhmmm. To be honest, I haven’t experienced any for a while.

Both of Neo and Rob‘s responses struck a cord. Some of the most profound acts of kindness occur when we aren’t even aware of them. It is in the smallest moments of the day: a smile from a stranger; a helping hand to your car; someone not having change for their parking ticket and the person behind them in the line offering to pay; a “have a good evening” from the security guard at the boom of the gym as you drive out. Whatever it may be, however big or small, most of these moments exist without us really noticing them. But these little things, these little moments…they aren’t so little at all.

As Rob said, we are often consumed by what we see on social media or highlights that are pointed out to us  by individuals on their Twitter or Instagram feeds. Maybe the point is exactly what Rob suggested – a lot of these moments are happening without the world knowing and without people publicising them. Regardless, they hold the same amount of power.

Morgan Freeman once said: “How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time!”

My challenge to you is to be more conscious of the moments of kindness that we experience on a day to day basis and to be grateful for these. More than that, I am encouraging you to make an effort to perform acts of kindness as often as possible, wherever possible. We need to be more conscious of our behaviour towards on another and the way in which this may effect the people on the receiving end. We may never see the direct effect of our actions but what I can assure you of is that these moments are enough to shed light on anyone’s day.

Today (and every day going forward) make a conscious effort to do more – you may even be the reason for someone else’s smile!