this (kind) life
IT was a last-minute decision — I persuaded my daughter and nine-year-old grandson to accompany me to see the New Year’s fireworks at Rosalind Park in Bendigo, Victoria. The lighting was somewhat dim as we entered the park through the high school and I noticed a petite young girl, aged about 18, wearing a very short, tight-fitting dress and high heels, walking alone towards a dark, bushy area. I thought it didn’t seem a particularly wise idea to walk about alone in such an area, and at almost midnight. But it was, after all, New Year’s Eve.
The trees near the fireworks area were full of such lush foliage that ultimately we decided to stay near the entrance to the high school to view the display. A couple of minutes before the old post office clock struck midnight, I heard the soft muffles of a woman weeping in the dark. I explored the bushy area nearby and there, to my surprise, was the young woman I had seen about 10 minutes earlier, crying her heart out. She was sobbing uncontrollably; clearly she was heartbroken. I sat down in front of her and asked if I could help her in any way. Through her sobs, she told me her best friend had ‘‘dumped’’ her and whatever it was that she had said or done, he wasn’t going to forgive her. The fact that her actions were apparently ‘‘unforgivable’’ was devastating to her. Throughout our conversation her phone kept ringing but she wouldn’t answer it. While I was trying to listen to her story, the fireworks began booming and lit her tear-glistened face in hues of reds and blues. I wanted to watch them directly, and not through the sparkles on her face, but I was compelled to focus on the girl and her sadness.
Eventually she tried to reassure me that she would be all right, but I told her she couldn’t know that. Once the families went home, I felt she might not be safe at all. I told her I would never forgive myself if I read in the newspaper a day or so later that a young woman had been attacked in the park on New Year’s Eve and I had left her alone, crying in dark. She understood my moral stance and allowed me to answer her phone when it next rang. It was her brother and after being instructed as to our location, he arrived within a few minutes. As they both thanked me for caring, he shook my hand with sincere emotion. I then continued to enjoy the festive park atmosphere with my family.
I hadn’t intended to tell anyone about this incident because I thought no one would be particularly interested. But after reading a story in this column earlier this year, written by a man who noticed another man crying at Sydney airport and hesitated to inquire as to his wellbeing (This Semi-Connected Life), I thought I might share this opportunity I took to help a stranger. Of course, it’s easier for women who are mothers and grandmothers to reach out and lend emotional support to another human being. We do it all the time. If you do it often enough, asking a stranger if you can help becomes quite comfortable, actually.
I hope more men find the courage to take the opportunity to perform a random act of kindness towards a stranger this year. It really isn’t so difficult; after all, the worst that can happen is the person will say ‘‘No, thank you’’, and you can then smile nicely and nod. Simple. Let’s not live our lives regretting all the things we should have done. There’s enough regret already in our lives for the things we got wrong without adding another category of regrets. Let’s make a resolution this year to be kind to strangers.
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