Take a look around ... kindness still exists.
Recently, I landed myself in a fix. Stranded at Bali's Denpasar Airport, I was on my own, without a wallet and I had just missed the red eye home.
The replacement flight was $550, which I had no way of paying.
Unfortunately, there was no romantic reason for my sticky situation. I hadn't experienced some ecstatic, holiday-induced sense of emancipation from the worldly constraints of money or time.
Arriving in that position was set in motion two weeks earlier, when I left Sydney and my handy card behind.
The replacement card I had been promised did not arrive, but I was able to use internet banking to make transfers while my travelling companion cared for our expenses. When she left two days before I did, she topped me up with a little cash.
On my final afternoon in Bali, I had all but run out of Rupiah. I had just enough to get to the airport and pay departure tax. So I wandered the streets of Seminyak absorbing the smells and sights. It was a lovely, lazy afternoon finished, by the sea, soaking in the fading sun. I moseyed to the airport with more than two hours to spare until my flight.
So I thought.
But, it was of course a holiday that began and ended with an impressive display of absentmindedness. My friend and I had flown over together and although I stayed on for a wedding, both our return flights were red eyes. There was just one small difference. She was flying back to a different city.
A different city, a different flight time.
Flightless, cashless, utterly witless I stood at the ticket counter and cried. I had no idea what to do and it was too late in Australia to phone home.
As I stood there red-eyed and a wreck, a young surfer, no older than 18, wandered over. He asked if he could help. After briefly explaining the situation and assuring him he couldn't help I thanked him for his concern.
He wished me luck and returned to his group of friends. Ten minutes later another, slightly older surf rat from the same group approached. He repeated what his friend had relayed. "So, basically you missed your flight, you need to buy a new one, but you have no money on you. Right?" he asked. "Right," I replied.
"I'll buy it for you," he said. "So long as it's not more than $2000 because that's all the money I have in the bank."
He hadn't even asked for my name.
I was speechless. Michael was a 21 year old kid helping out a stranger with a substantial sum of money. Most people can't even spare two bucks for the guy at Town Hall who 'needs to get to Newcastle.'
There was no wireless internet inside the terminal for me to transfer money before he bought my ticket. He had no way of knowing I would or even could pay him back. Frankly even if I could, I'm not sure, if I was him, I would trust someone silly enough to get themselves in that situation. But, he did trust me. And I did pay him back.
It was simple act of kindness. The kind of gesture that restores your faith in humanity.
Interestingly, when I returned and retold the story, several people who are on six figure salaries said they weren't sure they would have done the same as Michael had they seen a stranger in my situation.
But, many others seemingly would. Earlier this year, Aaron Collins' dying wish for unexpected kindness generated mass acts of kindness across the US. The 30 year-old wanted to make a difference in one person's life and asked his family to "leave an awesome tip (and I don’t mean 25 per cent. I mean $500 on a f***ing pizza) for a waiter or waitress.”
His family didn't have the money, so they created a website to raise it. They raised the money and then some. Currently, $62,895 has been donated - enough to give 125 waiters or waitresses a $500 tip. As his family go round America they film and upload every gift of Aaron's love.
Random acts of kindness have also become a movement around the world, encouraging selfless, good-spirited deeds as well as a kinder, more connected community.
WakeupSydney! have posted more than 70,000 kindness cards to Sydneysiders who want them, "encouraging anonymous acts of kindness." The Kindness Offensive, which launched in the UK in 2008, orchestrates flash mob kindness attacks with their 'Do-gooder army'. There are also hundreds of websites dedicated to the idea, offering suggestions and organising kindness events.
People performing random acts of kindness might buy the person behind them a coffee, pop money in the metre of someone who's about to get fined, write a letter of love, compliment someone. Or buy a ticket to Newcastle (or Australia).
Some say that the so-called random acts of kindness movement is just savvy marketing by organisations wanting to improve their image. But, people like Michael and Aaron prove that kindness in the human heart is alive and kicking.
For Aaron, arriving at a place where giving kindness was his dying wish was set in motion many years before. As his family recall, it was "the small things people did for him [that] touched him the most."
World kindness day is November 13, 2012.