The Kindness of Strangers

“Whoever you are…for I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I’m sure most of us know that is a line from the movie/play A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Wiliams and spoken by character, Blanche Dubois. It has always been one of my all time favorite lines of dialogue for so many reasons. Chief among them is that I believe we all depend on the kindness of strangers so many times in our lives we probably can’t keep track.

The person who stops when you are broken down on the side of the road and inexplicably spends the next two hours helping you get back on the road, for no reason whatsoever, the woman who lets you in line ahead of her because your baby is obviously upset and crying, the IRS agent or government worker who helps you straighten out a mess that would have taken months, the bartender who calls and pays for a cab to take you home when you are stranded in a bar by your angry boyfriend, and so on. I’m sure we all have a thousand or more such incidents that we can name both on the receiving and giving end.

It gives one pause when you stop to think of these small but ever so kind acts. Especially from people who do not know you, whose lives are not connected to yours in any way, who simply have no motivation other than kindness to help you. It touches the heart – at least it touches mine.

I was raised to believe that being kind to others was the way to be. Simply so. No question about it. No argument no pondering. It just made sense, really. And so in my life I do try to always be kind to people, I do not always succeed since I do have an Irish temper, after all. But I try. And the reason I try actually probably isn’t really because I was raised to do it, it is because it is so easy to be kind to another person. So easy to pat them on the back, offer them a hankie or five bucks for a sandwich and coffee. So easy to give someone else a reason to smile and feel just a little bit better about themselves and life in general. So easy that it hard to resist giving that little piece of your time and attention.

There is so much anger, and unkindness in the world. So many examples that you can’t swing a dead cat without finding 200 of them right within arm’s length, that it seems to me that if everyone just did one act of kindness per day, it could truly change things. I know that may sound trite and even ridiculous or laughable to some. There are those who believe that you must change the entire world, the entire pardigm of existence in order to have a real impact on people and the world around you. But I’m not one of them. I am one who believes that every good thing begins with one small act. One small kindness. Something that barely costs anything at all and pays back a thousandfold.

Unlike others, I don’t believe there is any lack of technology, innovation, programs, ideas, resources, etc. We are aswim in those things, I think. More to the point, I think it is what we do with those things, how much we share not of the things but of ourselves that always makes the difference. It’s what we give that matters I think much more than what we get, what we want, what we control.

So, like Blanche Dubois, I will always depend on and be happy for the kindness of strangers, and friends and family and do my best to be one of those strangers, who is kind and knows that we are all just human beings, frail and full of flaws but deserving of the kindness nonetheless.