By Ashok Bhargava
VANCOUVER: I remember the short but severe winters of Punjab. The harsh lashes of the elements are felt more heavily because the houses back home are not heated.
To keep warm, we would pile on clothes, huddle close to room heaters and wrap ourselves in blankets. We would cluster together under a quilt, play cards and tell stories to keep warm and to pass time during the cold and long evenings of those good old days. We joked that the families that huddle together stay together. Coming out from the warmth of the quilt and stepping on the cold floor was a challenge.
Throughout the long winter nights, we would hear the warning shouts of the Pehredar (watchman), “Jagtey Raho” roughly translated as “be alert” and the noise from his bamboo cane randomly used as a drum on street pavements.
At the advent of dawn, the melodious song of a mendicant used to be a welcome change from the annoying warning shouts of the Pehredar. At the end of his spiritual song he would wish good luck and thank everyone irrespective of who gave him alms or not. I remember him saying, “Jo de uska bhala, jo na de uska bhee bhala” I took solace in the fact that I was a recipient of his blessings although I didn’t give him anything. To me, it was his kindness to wish us well and bless us without getting anything from us.
Kindness is an act of goodness, generosity and consideration without expectation of anything in return. In other words kindness is a state of being good, charitable and genuinely concerned for others. Charity was always considered a virtue in our family. We were taught to be kind, generous and helpful to people in need. My parents used to say “Kindness is Everything”. They taught us, “Neki kar aur kuuain mein phaink” i.e. don’t expect any return from your acts of kindness.
Kindness can be expressed in many different ways. It is easy to practice kindness and it can mean a lot to the person on the receiving end. I have noticed numerous acts of kindness daily in the world around me; a smile, a compliment, a word of encouragement, a thank you, an offer of help (sometimes between two people that don’t even know each other). I am aware of selfless acts of kindness in my community; volunteerism, friends caring for friends that are ill or dying, parents supporting teachers, community groups working together, fundraisers for people in need, soup kitchens and countless other examples.
Personally, I try to perform one act of random kindness a day simply by thanking a co-worker, giving a friend a phone call to tell them I appreciate them, turning to a relative to say thank you for being here with me, or sending an e-mail to someone who could use a lift. Try out just smiling for the heck of it and see how many smiles you get back!
A famous Indian poet, mystic and religious reformer Kabir said, “Dayaa Dharam ka mool hai, Jahaan Dayaa tahaan aap”. It says, “Kindness is the foundation of dharma; where there is kindness God resides.” Famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
More recently kindness has been reincarnated as the concept of “a random act of kindness” such as “suspended coffee”.
So what is “suspended coffee”? It is a practice of some customers pay for their own coffee, then pay for an extra coffee — or two — but “suspend” delivery of the drink. The cashier hands the drink over to the next customer with the pleasant surprise of it being paid for by somebody else. Although the next customer likely is entirely capable of paying for themselves, he or she will likely still have great appreciation for a little bit of saved money.
Please remember that even the smallest act of kindness can be better than even the grandest intentions. Here is a verse from one of my poems:
Kindness is a vibration
here, there or any where
that would make you happy and lift other’s despair.
Every drop of kindness
that you give away
will return to you and bless your life one day.
(Ashok Bhargava is president of Writers International Network or WIN, Canada)