Positive Pause – 16th January, 2017 – the Kindness of Strangers

Many years ago, I played the part of Blanche Du Bois in the famous Tennessee Williams play, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. The character of Blanche is one that is tragically sad and her mental health is very poor; she is an alcoholic and is damaged by the many losses and traumas she has endured. In the play we see her inevitable demise as she loses a battle of wills with her scheming and brutal brother in law, Stanley.

Those of you who know the story (you may have watched the iconic film with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh) will know that at the end of the play Blanche is taken, against her wishes, to a psychiatric hospital. In fact, she only agrees to go with the doctor when she becomes delusional and believes that she is going to a better life. It is in this dramatic conclusion that Blanche delivers the famous line: “‘Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” What is so sad is that she feels she has been let down by everyone else and ultimately never taken responsibility for herself.

This week I found myself in a position where I was not quite as desperate as Blanche but certainly in need of some help from strangers. On Tuesday evening as I was collecting Luca, my son, from his weekly Scouts meeting I discovered that I had left the inside light on in the car and as a result it was now as dead as a dodo! My initial reaction was not as calm as I would have hoped for – I was cold and tired after all!  I wasn’t quite sure what to do when an angel appeared, well a man opened the front door of his house and asked me if I was okay. He said he had noticed that the light was on and was concerned for the person who owned the car. Almost immediately another gentleman appeared in his own car asking if he could help. Relief flooded through me and I quickly found a pair of jump leads that my always-prepared husband had left in the boot of the car. In two shakes of a lambs tale, my two “angels” had the car started and I was on my way to my warm home.

Small incidents like these help us to acknowledge, recognise and feel gratitude for the kindness that exists in other people.

To clearly see the goodness that is the essence of the human spirit is uplifting and to make a conscious effort to contribute to it is empowering. the kindness of strangers

On that note, this week I ask of you just one small thing – ask yourself, how can I help someone today? The accumulation of small acts of kindness contribute to a society where we can all feel safe and at peace with one another. So, hold the door open for someone, let somebody out in traffic, give somebody change if they need it, give somebody a lift if they need one, pour your colleague some water when you are getting some for yourself. If there is anything that you can do that will make someone else’s day easier, then please do it.

I am sure that many of you already live your lives in this way but truth be told, when we are really busy a little nudge in this direction can help. It is important to remember the fundamental value that helping others has, both for them and for yourself. Helping others is a sure-fire hack into your happy hormones and releases lots of oxytocin and serotonin that keeps you healthy and living at your optimum level. It really is a win-win situation!

And to those two “angels” who came out on a cold night to help me, thank you! What you give to the world is what you receive. It is flow, it is a dance with life, it is the essence of all that is good in you. If only Blanche had received the help she really needed she too could have experienced the joy of helping others.

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Best regards

Fiona Brennan