Acts of Kindness by Angela Caldin
A stunningly beautiful opera singer performed at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Her name is Pumeza Matshikiza and she has made an extraordinary journey from a shack in a Cape Town township in South Africa to international fame. Her story begins when she became captivated by opera as she heard it on the radio as a child. She managed to get into the South African College of Music where she was spotted by the composer Kevin Volans who bought her a plane ticket to go to London to audition for the Royal College of Music. He told her that if she passed the audition, all well and good, but if she didn’t, she should just enjoy a holiday in London. The College offered her a full scholarship and so this act of kindness and generosity propelled her into a magnificently successful international career. How satisfied Kevin Volans must feel that he bought her the ticket that paved her way to worldwide acclaim and what an effect a simple act can have on someone else’s life. Here she is at Edinburgh Castle:
In the village of La Patrona, Vera Cruz, Mexico, a group of women stand by the railway tracks every day to throw food to migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua who cling to the freight trains going over the border to the US. Nineteen years ago, the Romero Vazquez sisters were standing at the side of the railway tracks with their grocery bags, waiting to cross. They had bought bread and milk for breakfast, but as the train rumbled past, people on board shouted that they were hungry, so the girls threw them their bread and cartons of milk.
That instinctive act of kindness was to lead to the creation of Las Patronas, a charitable organisation which has helped tens of thousands of Central American migrants over the ensuing years and which was awarded Mexico’s most prestigious human rights prize last year. Instead of being angry that they had given away their breakfast, their mother decided that the family should cook around 30 portions of rice and beans a day, to thrust into waiting hands as the trains thundered past. Today the Las Patronas kitchen produces many more portions of that same basic meal – rice, beans and corn tortillas, feeding and giving bottled water to hundreds of migrants each day. In spite of criticism from various quarters, they have continued day after day with these extraordinary acts of kindness towards people they will never meet. One of the women is quoted as saying: ‘We never expected it to turn into something so big. I think it’s because it came out of nowhere, it came from just the little that one can give.’
These two examples of big-heartedness that expects no reward made me think that more acts of kindness in the world would be a good thing. That might sound obvious, but very often there don’t seem to be a lot of them around. Searching on the web, I found that there is a foundation that hopes to inspire people to practice kindness and pass it on to others:
They have a vast collection of kindness ideas, one of which is to write a thank you letter to someone who has put themselves out for you. A bit carried away, I wrote two thank you notes straightaway, whizzed over to the post box, swished them through the slot and felt absolutely marvellous. Clearly, acts of kindness work both ways.