Friday, 26 November 2010

A Wondering...

There's something funny about people today. Well, okay, there's a lot of things that are a bit off about people today, but I'm not going into all of them because I'm not spending the rest of my life writing this post. What I am going into is the fact that honesty and kindness seem to have become almost alien concepts. I'm not saying that everyone is dishonest or unkind, it's just that when presented with an honest or kind act, a lot of people seem disproportionately surprised by it.

I've been seeing this a lot lately. For instance, during my adventures at Auchinawa, we went to get a Chinese for dinner. The woman at the counter mistook the £5 note I handed her for a £10, and gave me the change appropriate to that. As someone raised by people in law enforcement, I'm honest pretty much by reflex, so I automatically handed the £5 she'd given me back. In response, she blinked at me, then started thanking me profusely and added a free bag of prawn crackers to my order, despite me not having spent enough to get them. This rather confused me. Was it really such a big deal that I had handed back the money? It wasn't the first time something like that has happened to me, due to the 'honesty by reflex' thing. The staff in the students' union at the university were very surprised when I settled up after not having enough money on me initially to buy my lunch, but making sure to borrow enough to make up the right amount. As I was walking away after paying the full price, I heard one of the staff commenting that she had been sure I was just going to walk out without bothering.

I also got thanked profusely when I ran out of work and chased a customer down the street to give her back the £5 she had dropped on the floor. She was another one that was genuinely surprised that I would bother doing that for her, to the point where she actually asked me why I did. I actually didn't know what to say other than 'it's your money' since surely that should have been an obvious reason, right...?

Random acts of kindness are another thing that people seem genuinely surprised at. It seems that the automatic response these days are to assume that the person showing the kindness is actually mocking you. While, regretably, this is sometimes the case, it seems equally as mean to make the assumption, although I have been guilty of it myself in the past. To put my example of an occurence like this into context, I went to a private school filled with kids who had a lot of money and, in the case of a fair few in my year, and indeed in other years, were not hugely tolerant of anyone who did not fit the chosen view of 'normal'. However, during one of the prize givings, there was a brief ray of hope that maybe they were not all completely discriminatory idiots. One of the merit prizes went to a boy in my year who had learning disabilities and needed a hearing aid, and the second he walked onstage, the whole place went from polite applause to full-on celebrity style uproar. This wasn't planned, no one said anything to anyone else, it just happened. His mother was in tears; she honestly couldn't believe that people would do something like that for her son.

I'm going to fully admit to being somewhat jaded about society in general these days. Anyone who knows me even a little can attest to the fact that I can be a suspicious judgemental bitch when the mood takes me, but is it really so bad that we feel that we can never expect these things? The woman in the Chinese was genuinely surprised and extremely grateful that I gave her back the extra change, when I would consider that an automatic response. Is that naive of me? I don't find it all that hard to give back something that isn't mine. As far as I'm concerned, holding it in my hand doesn't make it mine, and so giving it back isn't a problem, because I technically never had it. Maybe other people feel differently, I don't know.

Basically, I guess I'm a little disappointed that we've apparently gotten to a point where nothing can be taken at face value anymore. Sure, I know there are a lot of dishonest people in the world, and just as many unkind ones, but that doesn't mean we have to be utterly shocked when someone does something selfless or just plain nice.

Besides, it was only a £5 note, not the moon.

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