What a joy to experience acts of kindness
Monday, September 26, some time after 6.30 a.m., it was dark and wet, at least in Dublin. I was cycling on a relatively narrow road when a car passed at speed and far too close to me. I caught up with the car at the traffic lights and beckoned to the driver. He opened his window. In a polite and quiet manner I suggested he was driving far too fast and came dangerously close to me. He looked at me and told me to f... off. The lights turned green and we both moved on. Not a nice early-morning experience. But that's life, unfortunately.
In mid-morning I received an email informing me that a woman I know was seriously ill in hospital. After lunch I cycled to the hospital to visit her. I walked up to the reception with my fold-up bicycle and asked the porter if I could leave the bicycle behind his desk. He graciously assented. He could so easily have told me it was no place for a bicycle and that I should take it back outside and leave it in the bicycle shed.
After some initial enquiries we discovered that the woman I was visiting was in a room close to the accident and emergency section of the hospital. It is obviously a room designated for seriously ill people. Just as the porter directed me to the room he quietly said, 'God love her'. I was touched by his comment. It was so nice of him. He's there all day every day and yet he had the sensitivity and kindness to say something so thoughtful and uplifting to me. It was impressive. A good man.
After visiting the sick woman I returned to collect my bicycle. I thanked the porter and explained to him how impressed I had been by his thoughtful comment. While I was talking to him, a colleague, who was standing nearby, overheard what I was saying to him. A few moments later, while assembling the bicycle the colleague came over to me, explaining how he had heard what I had been saying. 'I want to tell you something about that man. He really does go that extra mile. Do you know what he did? He went off and learned sign language, all off his own batt, so that people who came to the desk who could not speak he would be in a position to explain to them where to go and what to do.'
The 18th-century English writer Charles Lamb wrote: 'The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident.' Certainly it was a complete accident that I bumped into that man. Had I not met his colleague I would still have been impressed but the story of his learning sign language was really the iceing on the cake. It's now over a week since it happened and I am still telling people about it.
What a joy it is to experience such acts of kindness. So much of it goes under the radar, never making the headlines. And yet it's one of those qualities or characteristics that make life so worthwhile. I'm certainly in a better place for having met that man. He'll never know the impact that short encounter had on me.
I've placed the early morning episode to the back of my head. It's far surpassed by the kindness of the porter in the hospital. There is an old Latin saying, bonum est diffusivum sui, which means goodness of its nature diffuses itself. So true.