Small Kindnesses in a Hate-Filled World

Few could fail to have been moved by the recent news (and news reporting – but that’s an inflammatory issue for another post) of American journalist James Foley’s death at the hands of Islamist militants in Iraq, or haunted by the images below of two of the many Yazidi girls who have been caught up in a war that’s not of their own making – one who looks little older than a child but is forced to carry a rifle to protect her family. Such stories and images are heart breaking, but, for westerners, it is still somehow so hard to grasp that atrocities like these are taking place on such a large scale when the comparatively ‘civilised’ society in which we live is at the opposite end of the spectrum of humanity.

So many terrible, evil things are happening all around the world, and though we fortunate folk may feel sickened, we also feel powerless to help. And, granted, when it comes to the poor souls being persecuted in Iraq, Syria, Gaza and all the other places where oppression, violence, corruption and hatred are as widespread as the oceans between us, we ARE powerless. But there is one thing we can do: Reach out to the people in our immediate vicinity, undertaking acts of kindness that will bolster the collective morale and prove not only the strength and beauty of the human spirit, but also that goodness still exists in the world. Just like this man, hairstylist Mark Bustos in New York, who gives up every Sunday to roam the streets in search of homeless people who need a haircut, whilst his girlfriend takes the trouble to ask them what they want to eat (rather than giving them scraps and leftovers). You might think a haircut is a shallow thing, but he said this of one of his most memorable beneficiaries:

“After offering him a haircut and whatever food he wanted to eat, he didn’t have much to say throughout the whole process, until after I showed him what he looked like when I was done … The first thing he said to me was, ‘Do you know anyone that’s hiring?'”

It’s small acts of kindness just like this that have the power to restore people’s faith – in themselves, in the world around them, and in humanity itself. I’m not saying we should all go out with a pair of scissors every weekend, but I am saying this: We may not have the power to heal the world, but the power to heal those closest to us is absolutely in our hands – if only we choose to acknowledge and act on it.

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The misery maker

On the surface you have everything; the looks, the brains, the charismatic smile that says you’re someone worth knowing, worth pursuing. You have money to fund the kind of lifestyle that most people only dream of. You stride around in suits fitted on Savile Row with shoes so shiny your face reflects back up at you as you walk: The face of success.

Other men want to be you. And then there are the women – so many women. A different one each day of the week, picked up and cast off like items of clothing depending on your mood. This week alone has seen you dine with Sylvia, attend a gallery opening with Lucinda, have animalistic sex with Stacey, beat Mirelle so hard she won’t be able to sit down for a week.

Tonight, for your own enjoyment, you will tell Annaleese that she is fat and she disgusts you. She will go home, cry, drink a bottle of whisky and swallow a handful of pills to ensure she never has to hear you say those words again.

You revel in the misery of these women, in your ability to make them feel so worthless. But what you fail to realise in this deluded state of hatred and bitterness is that there’s only one person in this situation who is worthless.

And that person is you.

Image

I wasn’t sure what image to choose to accompany this post, so settled for this pic of a porn star martini, taken in a gorgeous restaurant in Brighton last spring. That particular evening was fantastic, but I guess what this image represents where the story is concerned is the loneliness that goes hand in hand with the behaviour described.

His face

Jess took a step closer to the trolley and swallowed hard as the crisp blue sheet slid weightlessly across the still form beneath. As the face was revealed she nodded to confirm his identity. Death, she thought, had robbed him entirely of personality – or at least of his personality, the one she had known every harsh detail of for the past twenty years. In its place she saw serenity – an expression that had rarely, if ever, registered on his hard-edged features. His thick grey hair, flecked lightly with silver, was shaved on one side. A scar ran from the base of his neck right up to the crown of his head. Instinctively she reached out to touch it. She trailed a finger down the congealed wound, imagining his skin was warm to the touch, though she knew that was impossible. He had been dead for several days.

The news reports spoke of a five car pile-up which had robbed a family of their patriarch – brother, husband, father, grandfather. They would have people believe his death was something of a loss when in fact it had set them all free.

pa·tri·arch 

Noun

The male head of a family or tribe

  • An older man who is powerful within an organization
  • The male founder of something

He had been powerful all right, but the only thing he’d ever founded was borne of hatred and deceit.

This death mask may fool others but it could never fool her. He had been a monster in life and would remain a monster beyond it. No place in Heaven would be waiting for him.

Jess nodded and the sheet began its steady ascent, obscuring his face for the final time.

She felt nothing.

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This photo was taken on the boat to Lombok in Indonesia. I don’t know why but writing this story made me think of a boat man, carrying souls across the water to the ‘other side.’