Around the World with Strangers of Another Kind

I believe that there is innate kindness locked in the hearts of everyone of us. Recently I met Danielle Chan who is the Founder/Director of Sunshine Daughters. She confirms my belief. I appreciate her contribution below.


“When I graduated from university in Canada, I took the road less travelled. Instead of embarking on a career path, I chose to wander the world to experiment and find out the truth about the true nature of humanity. As a lone sheep entering different herds, I wondered if I would be accepted or rejected by their society and standards. I was 22 years old and for the next nine years I travelled to big cities and to the most remote parts of the world.

My experience unfolded to me that humans have an innate kindness that wants to come out and is often suppressed by fear. Since I did not have an agenda, I was open to almost anyone and anything. Carrying this attitude, I have encountered many more kind people than people who tried to take advantage of me. There were of course people whom I met with questionable characters who pushed or cheated their ways with me. But upon reflection and delving a little deeper into their situation, I realize that most people who were mean, were people who were desperate, victims of cruelty and injustice themselves. On the whole, I was lucky and privileged to directly experience the eternal law: kindness begets kindness.


One memorable incident took place when I was trekking around Mt. Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas. As we were climbing a tricky icy path, I slipped and fell into a small ravine. A fellow trekker from Switzerland immediately took off his outer pants and handed it over to me knowing that if I did not change, I would easily get frost bite. Touched by his grand gesture, I said “This is the first time a man has taken his pants off for me at 4000 meters above sea level and at minus 20 degrees.” To my greater surprise, a month after we returned to our homeland, I received a letter from a fellow Irish trekker who wrote a comical poem to me describing the situation.


Another unforgettable moment occurred when I was in Florence. I was walking around the Piazza Della Signoria, when a street artist approached me. He asked, “You look very interesting, may I draw you?” I replied “Do you mean I look weird or beautiful?” He laughed and gestured me to sit down. When he finished his pencil sketch, I handed him some money, he refused to accept it and said it is a gift from Florence.

Kindness struck again at the most amazing time when I was in Hong Kong. I finished visiting a friend and was heading towards the Kowloon Tong MTR. After 2 minutes of walking, rain suddenly came pouring down, a voice behind me asked in Cantonese “Can I cover you?” I turned around and said “I certainly won’t reject you”. The lady laughed and we both walked in silence without asking each other any questions. When we reached the station, I slightly bowed to the lady and she smiled than walked away.

In my early years in Singapore, I was strolling around the HDB block around Marine Parade. After I returned home, I received a call from my credit card company to inform me a man has found my wallet and to get in touch with him. I called and the man told me his address. When I rung the bell, a little boy and girl was standing at he doorway with their father. He revealed to me that it was his children who found the wallet. I looked at the children and praised them “you are my heroes; you saved me from a disaster.” I was about to give them a small award money but the father stopped me and declared, “I want to teach my children that they are required to be kind and not awarded for such acts”. I was touched and told the father, “You are a man of great ethics, and your children will grow up to be exceptional individuals to society”.

When I finally settled down in Singapore and made it my home, I started to investigate further into this innate kindness through reading eastern philosophy, religion and psychology. Psychologist Paul Gilbert in his book “Mindful Compassion” sums it all up: “it’s so important that we pay attention to the kindness and compassion coming towards us because the news media constantly pulls our attention to the tragic and destructive stories…but the fact of the matter is that we have evolved as a species to be emotionally oriented towards cooperating and helping each other, and a large part of our happiness comes from these relationships of love and care.”

I staunchly believe that as humans we not only need to strive for material comfort and advancements but also to be better humans, to be kinder to ourselves and others so that one day we can live in a world of peace and love.”

Danielle

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