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26 April 2014

Unkind People Should Be Ignored and Other Lessons from My Grandmother (Essay)

Image taken from Microsoft
clipart free gallery. 
An elderly aunt of a friend spent her last few months bedridden and alone in her house with only an adopted teenager to check on her from time to time. In exchange for keeping the sickly aunt company, she paid for the teenager’s school tuition fee. However, since the teenager was not a blood relative, she was not obligated to always keep an eye on the aunt as her conditions deteriorated.  The aunt’s relatives had practically abandoned her because she was abrasive, selfish and money-hungry during her younger and healthier days. I also heard of a story of a once abusive father who spent one month in a hospital without any visitation from his immediate or distant family.  He eventually died alone.  On a lighter side, a 60-year old man known for hurling insulting and hurtful words to his children, wife and even close friends suffered a serious debilitating disease. Luckily, he recovered but during his long bout against the disease, he realized that very few friends and relatives came to visit him. He also noticed that those who did show up were eager to leave and were just contented to fulfill the customary visit to show a semblance of politeness.  The two children that were obligated to care for him during his illness always frowned and looked frustrated and cheated.  Months later, when he completely regained his full strength, his personality changed completely. He became kinder and more compassionate.  Relatives were baffled and relieved. They said, “He finally learned kindness.”

The last anecdote sounds like a heartwarming story indeed, a story of real redemption. However, stories like these are also deceptively convenient. It gives people an excuse to be mean during their youth because the “eleventh hour” still holds the promise of redemption.

When I was young, my grandmother always told me to be kind, not to start a fight, and treat people fairly. She instilled in me that “kindness” is something that should be learned at a young age, not late in life when you are facing death.  In our generation, as male and female “bitchiness” is regarded as cool and placed on the highest pedestal, simple kindness does not have any chance to shine.  After all, a statuesque bitch with long luscious salon-pampered hair and wearing red high-heel shoes will always overshadow a short kindergarten teacher wearing flat shoes and carrying homemade muffins for the kids. Similarly, a tall dark handsome ass-hole wearing leather jacket and ridding his black motorbike will always outgun a short guy on an ordinary bicycle delivering chicken soup and the latest sports magazine to a sick buddy.

Image taken from Microsoft free clipart
gallery
Many years ago, I sold my soul to the “symbolic devil” and abandoned my grandmother’s simple lessons. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to get laid. I wanted to be powerful. I wanted to be part of the “in” crowd. I wanted to get ahead, period. After the dust has settled, I found myself alone, and my so-called friends were nowhere to be seen. Luckily, as I approached new and difficult days in front of me, I found new friends along the way, friends who know the value of kindness.

To put it simply and figuratively: if I see a rugged-looking man wearing black leather jacket ridding his noisy Harley motorbike as if he owned the street without a care whom he might hit, and I see a kindergarten teacher carrying a basket of muffins, I will shoot the prick on the Harley. Yes, I know shooting people is not an act of kindness but I have never claimed that I am totally rehabilitated; at least now, I know who to shoot (figuratively speaking). But I digress.

As I grow older and I have visited enough friends, relatives and acquaintances in hospitals, I realized one undeniable fact. Sickness is an accurate measure of how much kindness you have shared in the world.  If you get sick and bedridden in a hospital, count the number of people who come to visit you, the people who are eager to spend time with you, and the number of people who call you because they cannot physically come to you.  Even if you recovered already, those who were not able to visit you in the hospital, they still take time to visit you at home, or call you privately or send you letters or sincere e-mails (and yes! Facebook public messages and “likes” do not count).

Why wait until you get sick and old to learn to be kind? Kindness is like ABC. Kindness is a lesson that we should learned while we are young.  If you know some people who have not learned how to be kind yet, like my grandmother used to say, “Just stay as far away as possible from them, most likely you’ll find kinder people converging at the opposite direction.  You’ll meet better people there."

When we encounter rude and unkind people, it is not our responsibility to teach them kindness, but it is our responsibility to ignore them.  The more company they still have, the more disillusioned they are into thinking that they are kind and cool, when in fact, they are not.


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