“There was an old woman in China who had supported a monk for over twenty years. She had built a little hut for him and fed him while he was meditating. Finally, she wondered just what progress he had made in all this time.

To find out, she obtained the help of a girl rich in desire. “Go and embrace him,” she told her, “and then ask him suddenly: ‘What now?'”

The girl called upon the monk and without much ado caressed him, asking him what he was going to do about it.

“An old tree grows on a cold rock in winter,” replied the monk somewhat poetically. “Nowhere is there any warmth.”

The girl returned and related what he had said.

“To think I fed that fellow for twenty years!” exclaimed the old woman in anger. “He showed no consideration for your needs, no disposition to explain your condition. He need not have responded to passion, but at least he should have evidenced some compassion.”

She at once went to the hut of the monk and burned it down.”

Quite a while ago, when I read this story, I could not understand why the old woman burnt the hut after taking care of the monk for so many years?

It is now that I have realized the true meaning of the story. I have met innumerable people in my life while studying and then working, when I started my own business and through my husband and now children. I have learned I don’t remember people because they were exceptionally intelligent or bright, yet I remember them for their kindness, helpfulness, and compassion. People who lacked empathy, compassion, and had big egos to feed strangely eight out of ten times have been blocked entirely by my mind, and I don’t even remember their names.

This is precisely what you can learn from the story. No matter how learned or bright you are, all your skills are of no use if you don’t have compassion.

Lately, I have heard many people talking about how kindness is a lost virtue these days. Instances where people have been unkind to each other, are not uncommon. So many of us feel we need to be kind to each other. And then it makes me wonder who these inconsiderate and unkind people are? If we all know the importance of being kind and considerate, then who are these people who behave so unkindly towards others.

And after much prodding, I have found the answer, and no surprises here, most of us have been in situations where we have acted on an impulse, hence not have been at our best behaviours.

Do you remember honking when the car in the front took extra two seconds to move when the light turned green or getting impatient at the supermarket and making it evident with your gestures and expressions when the new person at the billing was taking a lot of time? Or do you recall passing judging glances at the mum with a crying toddler or leaving a scathing comment on someone’s post just because you disagreed with it?

Sadly, we all have been there and forget the basic rules of kindness when our impulses take over our minds. I sometimes feel this world does not have room for people making mistakes. We want everything to be perfect as far as others are concerned but expect people to understand when making mistakes ourselves. Well, I am no different!

We can change it, but it has to start with us. Let’s start with small acts of kindness. These small gestures of kindness can turn into big gestures tomorrow. Let’s teach our children to be good human beings before we teach them how to be successful. And let them learn it by observing us. Whenever we travelled on a bus, my mother always gave up her seat for mums with small children and older people. We never discussed it, yet somehow unconsciously, I learned it from her and still do it. Not surprisingly, once we were waiting in a crowded room in our local GP surgery, and my then seven-year-old son quickly offered a seat to an old lady looking for a place to sit!!

Let’s remember an act of kindness never goes waste. Kindness begets kindness!

So, the next time you see that new girl struggling at the billing counter, give her a big smile and tell her that she’s doing a great job. Be patient when you see a car with an “L” sign; tomorrow, it could be your child learning to drive; before posting any comment on social media, ask yourself if you’d appreciate it if someone posted the same comment on your profile. We can have a different perspective and we can convey it gently without hurting other people’s sentiments.

Let’s decide to do at least one act of kindness every day. We can’t change anyone, but we can surely change ourselves.

“To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times, what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.”― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Vibha S Kapil