We need more random acts of kindness
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