It always starts off as one act of kindness.
Every insult I have received in my slightly more than a quarter century of existence, that is.
I don’t know how much is up to nature or how much is due to nurture, but I think I have a problem with being too kind, that borders on obsessive compulsive. Alright, quite honestly, I might not feel the distress and extreme anxiety that accompanies OCD, if I do not for any reason give into my kind instincts, but it comes close. Quite close.
Do you know who else I know that is like that?
You guessed it. My father.
And who else?
This you might not have guessed. His father – my grandfather.
I’m not saying that the rest of my family is not kind. They are. Very nice and wonderful people. But we- my dad, his dad and I have a problem. There’s kindness, then there’s whatever it is that we do.
In a way, it’s hardwired. I heard of this research that demonstrated paradoxical attachment in animals. Young ducklings were split into 2 groups. One group was electrocuted each time they followed their mother. The other was not. The group that had been electrocuted was noted to follow their mother more frequently and more consistently than the group that was not.
It’s kind of like that with us. Despite all the stumbling blocks that we encounter in pursuit of a higher purpose, still we trudge on, perhaps even more resolutely. It is not funny. For some reason, my first instinct is to help, do something good, spread a little cheer, be kind to someone. For the mere fun of it. And believe me. Most times, it is anything but.
Many times, scratch that, most times, people will spit back the seeds in your face after you have fed them the fruit. They will not say thanks, they will be mean, they will hurl insults back at you, make life miserable for you- the list is extensive.
For some reason, the next person comes along and like some primal itch, I get antsy if they stand in some need that I can help with. And the thing about itches. They demand attention. They want you to scratch them. If not they keep on itching. Till you give in.
I am at my flatmate’s family house. There’s a wedding in the family this weekend and he invited me. A small incident just happened between me and some other guests that reminded me of this. The cycle of life I guess.
I had woken up in the morning, quite early. Earlier at least than everyone else in the room and had exercised, emptied my bladder and bowels and taken a shower. Then I went to iron the clothes I wanted to wear. It was more like to straighten them out. They were already decent enough, but you know, crammed into a suit bag that long, it was only natural for them to sprout a few creases here and there.
Between a few push ups and crunches, some trickle and not-so-trickle time, a cold shower, a change of clothes and rummaging around for the offending clothes to iron, the rest of the house had started to wake up and before long, everyone was filing into the living room for the morning prayers. As it was compulsory for all house occupants, I had to leave the ironing and join the rest of the house in the living room.
Long story short, after prayers, I came back to continue ironing my clothes, but someone else was already standing over the ironing board. I took a look at his clothes, they really really needed the steam. So I told him to go ahead and iron his clothes. Fast forward a half hour later and he is almost done. I am passing by and look in to check if he’s done and there are 2 girls standing beside the board- I think they’re on the bridal train or something. They’re fidgeting impatiently and asking to take over the board. I ask him when he’ll be done and the first girl gives me the stink eye. With the second one, I’m not so lucky. She launches into a furious diatribe.
As I stand quietly beside the board, there’s a million questions going through my mind. And I slowly realize that almost everytime I have been insulted like this or embarrassed or humiliated, there’s almost certainly a preceding act of kindness on my part.
Sometimes, I really wish I was more selfish, more cold-blooded. But alas, if wishes were horses.
After the young man that was ironing his clothes told them that I actually had the board even before him, the potty mouth girl muttered something about not saying no to a lady. No apologies,no polite request to use the board. I knew then, that standing there and breathing from the same column of air as this bitter soul, was me insulting myself. I bit my tongue and walked away.
Needless to say, I let them use the board and then many others after them. I’d already taken my bath and gotten ready-bar my clothes, so I already had a massive headstart. When the board was finally free, I stepped up and straightened out the few creases and dressed up.
Those two girls were not even out of the shower yet.