It was during one of those spells of fuel scarcity that has become a staple of Nigeria. The few fuel stations that were selling the product had their shenanigans in full swing. Either they were selling above the stipulated pump price of premium motor spirit or collecting a fee before they would even commence dispensing fuel into one’s car or keg. The supposed government owned NNPC fuel station in my area decided to get into the game in a different way. Since they could not increase their prices outright or be seen to be demanding a fee before selling petrol like most of the other privately owned gas stations, they devised their own method which was to compel vehicle owners to buy engine oil before they could sell fuel to them.
On this particular day, I was desperate to get the product, and so when I eventually pulled up by the meter and was informed of the condition to get petrol sold to me, I was upset but grudgingly accepted to pay the N600 (or was it N700?) for the engine oil which I figured would be useful even though I used a different product for my car. I got home, dropped the keg of oil somewhere, and forgot all about it. A few days later, as I was walking past the shelf where I kept the keg of oil, my eye caught the details of the information on it, and that was when I found out that it was a motorcycle engine oil and not for cars! Naturally, I was upset and believed I had been swindled of N600. The snag was that a few days had gone by already, the fuel station in question didn’t even open everyday during that period, and even if they were open, there was sure to be a crowd there, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t really remember who sold the product to me anymore, and so returning it was not an option. Again I dropped it on the shelf and forgot all about it since it was useless to me.
I had always wanted to carry out a random act of kindness. Not that I am not usually kind to people, but I discovered that most of what could be considered kind acts I have done was for people I knew one way or the other. Either they were friends, colleagues or family members. By random act of kindness, I don’t mean the occasional loose change given to beggars or someone who asks for help. I am talking about surprising a stranger (or acquaintance) by doing something good for them out of the blue. Someone who didn’t ask for help but can sure use it. Someone whom you are almost certain you would never see again. And so, on this morning, I made up my mind to carry out a random act of kindness, but hadn’t figured out how to go about it. Then, I walked past that shelf where I had the engine oil again, by this time, it was several weeks or even months after I bought it and I had completely forgotten about it. And then it occurred to me -I could give my little keg of motorcycle engine oil to a random bike (Okada) rider! Why hadn’t I thought of that earlier?
So, I picked it up, and on my way to work, sought out a random motorcycle rider, and presented my little gift to him. I will never forget the look on his face, or the smile and prayer he said for me that day! Trust me, moments like that are what we live for as human beings. The joy that wells up in one’s heart after carrying out such an act (as insignificant as it may seem) is indescribable and unquantifiable. Needless to say I had a spring in my step throughout that day. Nothing could have dampened my mood. I made a stranger smile and that was good enough for me. Now, this came at a cost of a paltry N600 which is not nearly enough to buy chicken and chips at KFC or even a cup of Coldstone ice-cream.
It is a pointer to the fact that a random act of kindness is not in the big things but in the little things. Being kind to other people doesn’t have to cost us an arm and a leg. It’s more about doing it for the right reasons. Oftentimes, we tend to be kind to people we are familiar with because subconsciously, we know that they would almost always do the same for us. And even if they didn’t or wouldn’t, we want to feel good about ourselves and be able to have “ammunition in our armory” about what we have done for them when the relationship goes south. With a stranger it is entirely different. You are not likely to see the person again. You are not doing it because you are expecting something in return, and you are sure to get a genuine response from them too!
I tell anyone who cares to listen that the greatest fulfillment I have from my writing career so far is the positive feedback I have gotten from total strangers (some of whom have become friends) via the emails they send to me appreciating my work. They have no idea how far their words have helped and encouraged me when I have been down or doubted myself. That is their random act of kindness to me – a little known writer, and I will always be grateful to them, while certainly not discountenancing the help and encouragement of my family and friends too.
I am already thinking about my next random act of kindness to a total stranger. You should try it too…a kind word here…a warm hug there…a little gift. It all adds up in creating a better world for all of us.