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The Kindness of Strangers

by Ailsa Betts

Bread, butter, Easter eggs, wine

We are living in unprecedented times. I hear that phrase at least once a day – along with other previously rarely used or unused turns of phrase – social distancing, furloughed, quarantined, flattening the curve...

Observing the response of the nation to this is easier because of a widespread access to local and national media. An observer cannot fail to admit that one of the prevalent responses to come out of these times is an upsurge in kindness.

Covid-19 mutual aid groups have sprung up everywhere. Streets have WhatsApp groups set up so they can look out for each other. Volunteers have not been in short supply to make deliveries, pick up prescriptions, collect donations or even provide listening ears on the phone.

George Monbiot writes in the Guardian about this sort of thing happening all over the world.

The horror films got it wrong. Instead of turning us into flesh-eating zombies, the pandemic has turned millions of people into good neighbours

Anyone who knows me with know that I love podcasts. This week I was listening to Dr Rangan Chattergee interviewing a Dr David Hamilton about his studies in kindness. Dr Hamilton stated that scientific research had proved 5 points about kindness. Being kind:

  1. makes you happier

  2. is good for your heart

  3. slows aging

  4. improves relationships

  5. is contagious

Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan who showed extreme kindness for the man who had fallen prey to attackers.

It has not escaped me that I am very privileged to have a home and a family around me during these times of lockdown. This pandemic, while in many ways can change so much about life as I know it, is unlikely to make the dent in my life that it will make for countless others – for those with precarious incomes, for refugees in camps, for the families I work with who have vulnerable children, for those who may find themselves literally trapped in abusive relationships.

But a few weeks ago I developed a cough. Not a bad cough but enough for the 111 website to tell me that me and my family would need to stay indoors.

A neighbour called Mohammed came to my aid. I posted on a WhatsApp group that we had run out of bread and milk. Within half an hour Mohammed had left a bag on my doorstep. In it were the essentials I had asked for and, in addition, three Easter eggs, chocolates and a bottle of wine.

“They were just some things we had in the house that we had no need for.” He called to

Mike from a safe distance at the end of the path.

I text Mohammed and ask him for his bank details so I can square up. He replies with his details but asks that instead I make a donation to charity on behalf of his family. I duly do.

In the story of the Samaritan, Jesus tells us how he tends to his wounds and then delivers him to a place of safety and pays for his ongoing care. He went beyond the call of duty.

Mohammed did not need to add to the basics I requested. He went beyond the call of duty. I have still never met Mohammed – we have only texted. But we will meet and I will call him my friend from now on. And that would have been unlikely to happen outside these circumstances – because Mohammed is an accountant and I generally don’t find myself crossing paths with accountants on a day-to-day basis.

This pandemic will devastate so much about life as we know it. But I hope the kindness, with all the benefits it will bring, will ultimately trump that devastation.

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