On a late summer afternoon, I was on the island of Lantau, enjoying an afternoon with my lover. She was her usual self, argumentative, self-centered, passionate and beautiful. Actually, self-centered is probably a redundant word to describe anyone. There can’t really be a person that isn’t self centered, considering that we only have a single point of perspective. We were arguing about something that her mother had sent to her on the gadget of evil (mobile phone). It was a picture of a third-grader’s essay response to the essay question “Describe either something that has been bothering you or
Now, to some of you out there and as well as my dame, this kind of response to an essay question would probably be given an “F”. Why? Because he didn’t answer the question in a “proper” way. That is to say, he didn’t develop a narrative structure, or failed to follow the rules of writing a story. I said : Screw That. That kid is a genius! Now, usually I say these types of things because I half mean them, but on this particular day the mistress decided to take offence at my facetiousness and then deigned to verbally assault me with her point of view. Something about the rules of education (she’s trying to become a teacher) and how we have to teach kids to conform to a certain standard so that they can fit into society and be a productive member of it. Ha, I said. This type of education serves only to dull their minds and kill their imagination! CONFORM! CONSUME! OBEY! The trinity of modern education, I said. Well, we argued until we got off the bus.
It was a beautiful day, and it was beautiful beach. The swells were rolling in, water fought water to erupt in shimmering streams of effervescent. We spent the afternoon how most afternoons should be spent. Lazing about, eating, sleeping, cuddling. Listening to the muted roar of ocean against sand, water against rock, soft against hard. Which one wins? The water, of course. Something as soft as water defeats something as hard as rock…easily. The night was coming along. We saw reds, purples, greens, violets, oranges in the sky. We saw every imaginable texture in the clouds. In particular, a blue that was so blue that it could caress you with its gentle warmth appeared. It’s surprising. It’s silly how we don’t watch the sky for inspiration more often.
Eventually nature’s fireworks ended and we had to get home. We set off to find some public transport, but we found that we found none. Lantau is a place that everyone wants to go to, and the by the time everyone wants to leave, there isn’t enough public transport. No cars other than those of the people that live there are allowed (which is the way it should be).
We sat down at a bus station, hoping that a bus would come along and pick us up, and bring us somewhere where we could get home.
Then, an old looking sports utility vehicle stopped, a window rolled down. “Hey, are you guys trying to get out of this place?”
At that moment, that offer of a lift was something that just resonated in me. It was a simple act of human kindness, of empathy. Something that I had forgotten existed, something that I felt that people couldn’t achieve. Something that cut through my jadedness and my cynicism. Are there people who are actually good? And then I thought. Maybe people are good at heart. But then there’s also evidence to the contrary. Or is such a notion of “goodness” misguided? I was inexplicably emotional about this particular turn of events.
He wore glasses. He listened to cheesy japanese music from the 90s. I remember a woman’s voice cutting through my nervousness, soothing me, caressing my ears. The sodium orange of street lamps flickered on his face, revealing his middle age features, glasses that looked like they came out of a japanese manga comic. But here he was, talking about things that people talk about when giving a lift to strangers.
The fact that someone could do something so small but make such a big impact on someone amazed me. It’s not something I’ve felt before. We eventually left the nature and went back into the city. Upon leaving, I tried to give him some fuel money, but he didn’t accept it. My companion said it was insulting, as if I was offering payment for services. The fact was that I just wanted to thank him, but I didn’t know how. She explained it afterwards – sometimes, giving gifts is a nice thing to do. Sometimes, you can accept gifts without feeling that you have to repay people. If you have another gift to give, then give it. But don’t give people money for gifts. That’s not the way to do things. “Dirty Money”, she called it.
What am I trying to say? It is difficult to be a gift giver, or to be patient, or to be forgiving. But we are more similar than we think. Sometimes life seems like it’s too fucking hard and you want everyone to just disappear, not care about what other people feel. But it is easy to do that. It’s easy to be selfish, it’s easy to think about yourself and not others. But sometimes, maybe a smile, or a ride home for someone, a simple act of human kindness inspires others to do the same. The way that I would do it is to write this down and share it. There is too much greed, unhappiness and injustices in the world already. Just go a little bit out of your way to help someone. You are spreading happiness around. It’s infectious.