Today, it seems is Random Acts of Kindness Day, a day to make the world a better place.
I remember many acts of kindness I received. One was during my days as a curate.
A curate’s stipend in 1986 was not very much, but it was enough to get by, if one was careful. Some months were more difficult, a coincidence of two or three bills and the money was stretched. Sitting at our weekly Tuesday morning parish staff meeting, the saintly, long-suffering Rector under whom I served, inquired as how I was getting by. I admitted money was tight. He passed no comment.
While making lunch in the kitchen of the curate’s house later that day, there was a rattling sound from the letter box. Walking up the hall, there was a glimpse of the Rector stepping into his car and driving off. There was a brown envelope on the floor with “Ian” written on it in his unmistakable hand. I had only left his house half an hour previously, something must have been forgotten, but why couldn’t he just have phoned?
Opening the envelope, it contained £15, a sum equivalent to one-sixth of my weekly pay. It was a gesture that has remained a vivid memory – unnecessary and unmerited kindness.
A quarter of a century later, going to a bank to withdraw cash from a bank in Dublin, there were three ATMs and a handful of people waiting. At the middle of the machines, a young woman who seemed probably a student from nearby Trinity College had tapped the keys to inquire as to her bank balance – €77.31 declared the screen in digits so large that it was easy to read from a distance. The young woman paused before proceeding to tap further keys to withdraw cash, obviously pondering how much she might afford.
The memory of my Rector suddenly returned that day. I stepped forward to withdraw cash. I could have handed her €20 of it and I would not even notice the impact, but the machine seemed to take an inordinate time to issue the notes and, by the time I stepped outside, she had disappeared into the crowds on Grafton Street.
Handing her cash would not even have been an act of kindness, it would simply have been a matter of justice; and it would have made one small corner of the world seem a happier place. I hope there are many people who are like my Rector are still spreading happiness and I hope that those who have money will be swifter than I was to pass it on.