The awkward kindness of strangers

Sometimes being kind can be really hard – or at the very least extremely awkward. Take for instance, the case when someone has food in their teeth, or worse, when a man’s fly is undone.  I remember once being asked (when I was in school) to tell a man older than I that the latter was the case with him. I think my face was flushed red with embarrassment. It would have been easier to just do nothing.

Very recently, I found myself in the embarrassing situation of being informed  (in public) by another man – whom I did not know – that in fact my own fly was undone. The man was Dutch and I did not understand him at first, but I got the point when he started gesturing.

I am grateful to this man. I do not know if it was a hard or awkward thing for him to do. Dutch people are remarkably direct and unashamed – perhaps this was just another sign of this. I do know this: to be kind we must sometimes overcome our own inertia, our irrational fears, face some personal discomfort. How much kindness is never done just because it is easier not to?

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