Monday, June 14, 2010

Kindness is surprising

For dinner this evening, Richard and I went to Al Dente Pronto at Great World City. When we got our table, Ryan was not ready to sit down so Richard took him for a walk while I placed the orders. When the food was served, Richard returned with Ryan and settled Ryan into his chair and we started eating.

Out of the blue, a lady came up to me from the table behind us and offered her help to babysit Ryan while we ate our dinner. She was in full admiration of Ryan and kept saying how cute he was (although she thought he was a girl at first). She told us that she understood how difficult it is to look after our children when they are still so young. She said that for her, the first two years were really crazy and she wouldn't want to go through that again (her 11 year old son was sitting at the table behind us). She said that she would love to help us while we ate our dinner and that she had done it before for others.

She said that she is originally from Hong Kong and she married a Canadian. She was so pleased to discover that we understood Cantonese and she went on and on in Cantonese with us. She wouldn't stop talking so we really had no chance to refuse her advances and we certainly didn't want to make an unnecessary scene. She just went on and on about how difficult it was to look after a baby and that we need all the help we could get. She said that, if we were to say we're doing all right, it would not be true but we would not know it, because it really is such a tough job. When Ryan's meal was served, she drew up a chair and picked up the spoon and started feeding him. All the while, she was talking and talking.

When she picked Ryan up from his chair and told us not to worry and just carry on with our dinner as she would look after him, we made sure that we kept a good eye on her and her son (who was still sitting at the table playing his handheld electronic game). She carried Ryan around the restaurant and chatted with the waiters and other staff. We managed to finish our dinner and we were wondering if she expected us to pay for her dinner. She flatly refused our offer.

It was hard to part ways - she wouldn't stop talking and dispensing advice - but eventually we manage to bid her and her son goodbye.

It was a strange experience.

I got the impression (I may be mistaken) that she was really lonely and in need of human companionship and friendship. She must be feeling quite cut off from the world, at home all day, with her husband working and her son, 11 years old, not needing her like he used to when he was a baby. Her husband called her a few times on her handphone to ask her where she was and she brushed him off saying she would be home soon.

No doubt this lady was very kind. Her motives may have been driven by loneliness and to that extent, they may not have been entirely selfless, but she was certainly not driven by sinister reasons. Richard and I were suspicious of her at first, what with her coming on so strong. I think that is a reasonable response, but it is sad that it is reasonable to be suspicious of kindness and good faith. I have had many people ask me, "What do you want?" when I call them up just to say hello, how have you been. In our current time and culture, kindness and trust are not assumed and one is presumed guilty unless proven innocent.

I hope that, in the same way that this lady extended her kindness to us, Richard and I were also kind and responded with politeness and friendliness. We could have rejected the lady and told her to sod off, but we didn't and everyone walked away from the episode with good feelings. Ryan will grow up in this cynical world, but I do hope that Ryan will always be kind and I hope that Richard and I will always be a good example to him of how to be kind. Things like that, just like love, make the world a better place.


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