An Opportunity of Kindness

Since my last two adventures were rather distressing, I wanted to remind you that all is not fraught with peril and angst here in London. Though frankly, many things are, and it’s easy for me to forget the wondrous things. I recently referred to my London life as ‘vinegary’ and I stand firmly by my assessment. But if I meant it as a criticism, it also encompasses the piquancy that adds just the right amount of tang to what would otherwise lack that extra little touch.

I feel this way about riding the Tube especially. I like the Tube, it gets me where I want to go. But, at rush hour, it is like the road paved to Hades: hot, thick with dust like coal, full of people you’d rather not be around who are all rushing about angrily, and paved with good intentions.

Eh? You’re saying. But it’s true. Because it struck me a few days ago that people on the Tube are not merely limbed obstacles standing in the way of my destination, they are also an opportunity to present kindness to others. Something as simple as the courtesy of shuffling down a crowded train to make room for new passengers and smiling while doing it, something as small as vacating a seat for an elderly person, something as easy as standing aside on the escalator or helping someone else lift a suitcase: these are all the small kindnesses that we can offer in an exchange which is likely to be brief and singular. There is a chance to be remembered not as a blurred shape in a crowd, but as the woman who smiled, as the man who nodded a greeting, as the child who laughed with joy.

There are times when London feels exceptionally cruel. But there are others where it opens like a door into a secret room and allows you to experience something amazing.