“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”
Richard Moss, Author
Someone I know (let’s call him Oliver) has been practicing slowing down, finding joy in the small things, remembering to take a breath. A few days ago he found himself with a cup of tea and ten spare minutes. He sat in the cafe, looking forward to peace and quiet and a cup of Earl Grey. Then the man at the next table, a somewhat dishevelled, older gent reading the paper, leaned towards him and said “wanna talk football mate?”
Now, it happens Oliver is not a fan, but familiar enough with the game to have an informed conversation. In the split second when withdrawal to focus on *important* email was definitely the comfortable option, he decided instead to practice something different. Instead he would give this lonely soul undivided attention. A spirited ten minutes ensued, the virtues of one manager over another, one striker compared to another, teams, leagues, referees – you name it, they covered it. An appointment approaching, Oliver politely excused himself. His companion beamed, saying “thanks” and waving a friendly goodbye. Walking away, Oliver described his heart swelling with emotion. He could so nearly have missed this enriching opportunity to connect with another. He may well have made this gentleman’s day, perhaps the only person to exchange more than pleasantries.
Today I had my own chance. Sitting atop the bus outside the Natural History Museum, a silver-haired gentleman lowered himself in the vacant seat next to me and I commented on his courageous tackling of the stairs with a cane. “Oh, it’s as much for swagger as stability” he said, his eyes twinkling. Noting the swashbuckling scar along the jaw line, I contemplated what kind of rich life he’d lived thus far. I enquired, learning about his career in sales (he still dabbled), love of fast cars and steam trains, London railway stations, and adventures on the bus around the town he appreciates so much. A precious half-hour, for us both.
Then I came across another encouraging story, this one on the BBC website. Some kind stranger paid for a bunch of treats, leaving them in the tray of a snack machine to be collected by staff or patients on a cancer ward in Manchester. The donor suggested people helping themselves might want to “spread the kindness.” And if you didn’t already know, there’s actually a website to help: the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation launched their RAK week last Monday. There’s still time to participate! Go on, take a moment to do something to make you and someone else feel better.