The Luckiest People

Who was the first person you encountered today? Write about him or her.

Well this post should probably have waited but I might not get the chance to write it today if I don’t do it now. Truth is that I got up this morning, came in to work, sat in the “bunker” office on my own and now am writing this. It’s 13.12 and I haven’t encountered anyone yet who hasn’t been in a car, and I can’t say I was paying much attention to any of them as individuals.

But this prompt does lead me nicely on to another point. I posted a week or so about my balance and related it to karma. I still maintain all the points that were made, with the summary being:

  1. I have a job and somewhere to live with heating and clean running water where there’s no war.  Yes, I’m lucky.
  2. Remembering that we can all suffer from disappointments despite point 1, I feel like my end of the seesaw is stuck in a hole.
  3. If anything good happens it tends to just redress the balance, rather than lift me up or push me on.
  4. I’m prepared to work (and have been doing) to get something, but it would be nice if I could see a glimmer of the possibility of getting it, which I don’t at the moment.

I’ve also written, in the last week or so again, about how I feel my niche is to be that useful person that you go to when there’s no better option.  That one isn’t worth summarising but is how I feel at the moment.

And I remembered all this when I read this article yesterday on the BBC – Does it Pay to be Kind to Strangers?

This sort of subject was also why I wrote about My Dating Apocalypse.  I was pointed in the direction of the Vanity Fair article that triggered the post by another article about how women can feel threatened and unsafe by having to say no to man or show a lack of interest in him.  To be clear, I find it incredibly sad that we live in a world where women have to feel this way.  I find it incredibly sad that we live in a world where I can feel threatened when people I don’t know say something to me that isn’t quite right (it’s not just women, although I understand the differences in each scenario).  And, as a man who has enough trouble talking to women for fears of his own embarrassment, I also find it sad that a woman might be feel threatened by me trying to make idle conversation in a queue or on public transport or at a show etc.  I realise that a few bad apples can ruin this for the many and that these women are speaking from experience, but it doesn’t alter the fact that I find it disappointing.

So I read the article about paying it forward and was interested to see both points of view.  The positive side is that those who do little things for others can in turn feel better about themselves.  (This is what I said about myself when searching for my niche).  Benjamin Franklin said, when lending money to a friend:

I do not pretend to give such a deed; I only lend it to you; when you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him… This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.

And this is the other part of “paying it forward”.  If you’re in a queue buying a coffee and offer to buy the coffee for the person behind you, they may then buy the coffee for the person behind them.  The chain of satisfaction of helping another spreads making the world a better place.  Aww!

But then there’s the negative side to being kind to someone.  Because we live in a world where many people are cynical and untrusting, they can feel threatened by a random act of generosity assuming that they have to give something in return.  If the person in the queue behind me at Starbucks happens to be attractive and female, she may feel threatened by the thought that I will get abusive if she says no.

The other negative that grows from cynicism is that people can see selfishness in the act of giving.  Again, this is really sad.  Christmas, as I’ve said many times before, is my favourite time of year.  Although I can’t point to the time itself, there was a time I got over the other side of the hill from being a kid not sleeping on Christmas Eve cause I wanted to know what Santa had brought me to the side where I was equally or even more excited cause I got to give something to someone else.  I once bought a friend a colouring book because I knew it would make her happy.  I buy my mother chocolate from Staff Sales cause it only costs a pound and I know she’ll enjoy it.  I went out with my brother for one drink and bought him a £5 pint against my £1.50 Diet Coke because he wanted a pint.  I give people a lift home after a night out cause it think it’ll make their night better if they don’t need to pay £20 for a taxi.  I realise, if you are one of the aforementioned cynics, that you’ll have to take that at face value.  I once saw a homeless person in the street with a dog.  The thought that crossed my mind was that I could get the dog a tin of food and he would just be happy to eat without the thought that he somehow had to pay me back.

So there is distrust that the good deed can genuinely be because one person wants to make another happy, just for the hell of it.

I’ve decided I want to test this out myself.  I’m not going to spend fortunes on someone – I’m talking about small good deeds.  I want to see their reaction.  I want to see what effect it has on me when the person is a stranger rather than someone I know.  It will be interesting to see what each person can get from it.  I want to see if a few, small random act of kindness intended for little more than making a few people smile can somehow turn in to the fat bastard at the other end of my seesaw, and I want to see how I feel about that.

Someone once taught me, while I was looking at a £250 model of Wolverine, that if I looked at it 250 times and it made me happy each time then each of those pounds would be worth the money.  Let’s see if random small interactions can turn in to something bigger and better.

There’s a river born to be a giver,
Keep you warm won’t let you shiver,
His heart is never gonna wither,
Come on everybody – time to deliver.

Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now.
Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now.
Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now.
I can’t tell if I’m a kingpin or a pauper.

Give it Away by Red Hot Chilli Peppers

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