Sunday, 23 September 2018


There are no more joyous words in the English language than “Thank you.” You've given a child a present and they just turn and walk away, leaving you standing there with your arms lolling around like an ancient willow, chin stuck forward and eyes bulging, waiting for the magic words.

You know the present was something he wanted. You’d asked his parents, so there’s no point blaming the child.

Off goes the head in imaginary circles of erroneous thinking: it’s the parents’ fault.

Clearly they never bothered to teach their son manners.

What a shame. Tut tut.

What a load of tosh. Every parent tries to teach their child which words to use in order to say thank you, and if we learn other languages we’re taught how to give thanks in several different ways.

We are not, however, taught gratitude. We are not taught how to want things and we are not taught how we feel when we are given them.

That’s down to who we are.

Of course our education and socialisation influence whether we enjoy or shrink from generosity or thankfulness, but the way we react to another’s kindness forms a seminal part of who we each are as individuals.

Random acts of kindness are well trendy and truly wonderful, but deliberate generous gestures can be pretty bloomin’ splendid too.

I’ll never forget the woman with the dogs, because she was silently kind and I never had the chance to thank her.

I was living in Salthill where a sunny Summer’s day threatened to turn parking into a nightmare. Arriving back from a shopping expedition I was delighted to see two clear spaces just round the corner from my home.

After unloading the weekly shop and dropping it into the house, I drove back to discover that someone had parked their car in such a way as to take up both spaces.

“Inconsiderate bastards!” I muttered aloud under peevish breath, and then, as if I had drunk of a magic potion, I began a slow but steady metamorphosis into my own personal Mr. Hyde: Bear From Hell.

Stubborn to the last, I tried to squeeze my car into the space and failed, became a bit more Bear From Hell, tried again and failed better.

On the last of my pointless reversing runs, I spotted a woman walking her dogs around the small park just over the road.

There she was!
The driver of the offending car.

Maybe I should just nip over and have a word with her.

Leaving my car obnoxiously double-parked, I strode into the park and approached the lady in question, asking if she would mind moving her car a bit, so that two cars might park where now one occupied two spaces.

She nodded and immediately headed out of the park and back over the road, to do just as I had asked.

Without wanting to alarm her, I tried to catch her attention by following her and waving my arms, because I wanted to offer to hold her dogs’ leads.

She saw neither me nor my gesture. Leaving me feeling increasingly embarrassed, she opened the hatch door of her car, eventually encouraged both of her dogs to jump in (they were not best pleased, thinking their walk had been cut cruelly short) and moved her car the requisite few metres.

As I climbed into my car to move it out of the centre of the road, I saw her open the back door of her car again, encourage her somewhat bewildered pooches to jump out once more and head again towards the park.

By the time I’d finally parked my car she was off, gone, out of sight.

After quick reflection I decided that it’d just look plain weird and potentially scary if I suddenly charged off to seek her out.

Instead I walked home, grateful for the polite calm way she dealt with the situation, feeling rather guilty that what I’d thought at first would be a pretty easy task had turned out to be a time-consuming laborious effort for her, not to mention her confused dogs.

Most of all though I felt bad because I hadn't thanked her.

Even though now it’s a tiny sliver of memory, the fact that over a decade later that feeling remains strong serves to show me how powerful is our species’ need for kindness, decency and generosity of spirit.

We are assaulted every day, minute and second by an onslaught of news, images and sounds that relentlessly impose upon us the notion that we, the Human Race, are a terrible beast.

We wage war. 

We murder.
We rape and abuse.
We torture, beat and maim.

Yes we do, but we are not all bad.

Far from it. Just like yer Grannie used to say, it’s the rusty hinge that makes the most noise. Billions of human hinges work perfectly peacefully. Speaking as one of the planet’s most oxidised hinges, I know I create an unholy racket.

Displays of gentle generosity and heartfelt gratitude lubricate the pathways of the human spirit. When someone acts as that woman did, this hinge is suddenly silenced, oiled by kindness.

I take solace, comfort and hope from these sweet injections of humanity.

Don’t believe all the hype raining down upon us from our 24/7 media culture. We are a gentle, loving, caring and generous species.

©Charlie Adley

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