We need more ran­dom acts of kind­ness

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UP -

WHEN was the last time you en­gaged in a ca­sual act of kind­ness — a small ges­ture that takes no ef­fort but means a lot to oth­ers?

In the last week I’ve been re­peat­edly re­minded how good it feels when oth­ers go out of their way just to be nice.

In the past week my fam­ily and I have been on hol­i­day in far north Queens­land, about 15 min­utes north of Cairns. It’s ab­so­lute par­adise.

There’s pris­tine white beaches, palm trees fring­ing the sand and some of the most spec­tac­u­lar scenery in the world in the nearby Dain­tree Rain­for­est. And yet life isn’t al­ways easy in and around Cairns. It has one of the high­est un­em­ploy­ment rates in the coun­try, peo­ple lose more on pok­ies than just about any­where else, and it’s also where a mother re­cently killed eight chil­dren rang­ing in age from two to 14. Seven of th­ese chil­dren were her own.

And yet, just about ev­ery per­son we’ve en­coun­tered have gone out of their way for us. It’s been a long time since we’ve felt this way liv­ing in a big city.

There was the flight at­ten­dant who took pity on my fam­ished young daugh­ter to slip her a bonus Kit Kat three hours into our flight. There was the Woolies shop as­sis­tant who worked slowly so there was more time for a chat with the kids.

There was also the woman (Sher­ill, I think her name was) who bought in pas­sion­fruit from home to share with tourists vis­it­ing the Mamu rain­for­est plat­form just out of In­n­is­fail. What a de­light it was to meet some­one who pro­vided such a wel­come. A bucket of home­grown pas­sion­fruit and a sign say­ing “free” will make peo­ple feel more wel­come than any fancy brochure in four lan­guages.

There were hon­estly too many lovely peo­ple to de­scribe here. I’m think­ing of the butcher who drew us a map show­ing us the best places to ex­plore on the Ather­ton Table­lands (on butcher’s pa­per, of course), the hire car op­er­a­tor who gave us an up­grade be­cause we’d been tight-ar­ses and hired a car that was too small for five, and the wait­ress who lis­tened pa­tiently to the kids’ chat­ting even though she had work to do.

This is the stuff that makes all the dif­fer­ence when you’re try­ing to have a re­lax­ing hol­i­day with three kids. In fact, the kids have been more in­ter­ested in the peo­ple than the nat­u­ral beauty of the area.

(Me: “Look kids at the amaz­ing vir­gin rain­for­est that has been un­touched for thou­sands of years.” Them: “Ooh! You said vir­gin.”) There is start­ing to be an ap­pre­ci­a­tion that such kind­ness can help in other ways as well.

The mother who killed the eight chil­dren lived in Cairns’s Mur­ray St, which is home to a num­ber of other dys­func­tional fam­i­lies plagued by al­co­hol abuse, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and poverty.

How­ever, in the light of the tragedy, au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to reach out and support other fam­i­lies who may be strug­gling to raise their chil­dren prop­erly. It’s all about of­fer­ing them kind­ness and support rather than threats.

For ex­am­ple, to help fam­i­lies get their kids ready to start school next week, wel­fare of­fi­cers are go­ing door to door to talk about what they need, and how oth­ers can help. Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity are be­ing urged to do­nate back­packs and school sup­plies through the Sal­va­tion Army to help out.

Noth­ing can bring back the eight chil­dren who died, but at least the com­mu­nity seems to be try­ing to make sure this never hap­pens again.

There is no doubt that Cairns is a wild kind of place. There are lots of tatts and staffy dogs, bars serve beers in stubby cool­ers, and the dress code is thongs and sarongs. You have to swim in a net at the beach be­cause of the croc­o­diles and stingers. It’s also been un­touched by the PC po­lice, with place names like Chi­na­man’s Creek and Black­fel­lows Creek.

But it’s also home to some of the kin­d­est peo­ple you will ever meet.

At the end of the day, this is all that re­ally mat­ters. Blog with Susie at susieo­brien.com.au, Face­book.com/Newswith­Suse and follow her on Twit­ter @susieob

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.