Although I walk through the world with a folio of smile cards in my wallet, and try to be ever-vigilant for opportunities to use them, it always seems that I am the recipient of anonymous kindness much more often than the benefactor. Here's a story about one such incident which happened just yesterday: We arrived at Chennai Central early; our train did not depart for another 45 minutes. I took the opportunity to find a tailor to perform a simple repair for me. Across the lane from the side of the station stood a building typical of those found in India cities, containing a warren of tiny shops – perhaps several hundred of them. These buildings would look like any of the zillions of faceless, multi-storied, style-bereft concrete abominations that proliferate in the metros, were they not covered with scores-and-scores of small peeling signs — most painted directly onto the façade, at ... Read Full Story >>
I was renewing my library card the other day, and overheard the transaction of the user being assisted by the adjacent clerk. If not outright homeless(he carried with him two large bags of possessions), the scruffy man was clearly going through an extremely hard time. It seems that he was unable to check out a book because he had an outstanding $3.00 fine on some books he had turned-back late. He told the clerk there was no possible way for him to pay the fine. I reached over and slipped the man three dollars. He paid his fine and thanked me profusely: "I don't know how I could make it through a night on the street without my science fiction." That is not the story. Here's the story. As he was getting up to leave, I was in the process of fishing through my wallet for a photo ... Read Full Story >>
It was late one night when I got an email from the states. It was my friend John who, as usual, had an idea. This one was about the power of connectedness. John was taken with the notion that he could, by sitting at his computer, with only a few small movements of his fingers, could affect change on the other side of the world. “In ten seconds,” he wrote, “I sent an email to my friend in Boston, asking him to go down to the street and give a watermelon to the first person he saw. And he did.” John, of course, wanted to illustrate the power of connectivity with a more compassionate experiment. “Please go find a needy person and give them $20 [1,000 Indian rupees, at the time]. If you can, try to see how it changes their life and let me know.” On our last afternoon in Ahmedabad, ... Read Full Story >>
Leaving Paris, I had no more use for my mobile SIM card, which still had quite a bit of talk-time on it.
So, after checking-in for my flight, I made a detour to the Arrival area, where I found a just-arrived, almost-elderly couple making enthusiastic enquiries in English at the Information Desk. I asked if they'd like my SIM card and talk-time.
The man replied, "We had just a moment ago asked where we could buy one." "Now you have one," I said, handing his wife a small, cellophane envelope containing the SIM and a Smile Card. "Wow," he said, "this is great!"
She removed the Smile Card and started to examine it as I turned to head-back to the Departure area. "Hey," she called after me, "THIS is REALLY great!" I simply kept-on walking, grinning as broadly as I hoped they were.
It is 8:00 am at the Indian Coffee House. Breakfast time. We have taken a table in the “Ladies and Families” room, and are sipping fresh lime juice while we wait for our food. Shortly after we sit down, a woman takes the table next to us and orders a coffee. Though the clientele of the Coffee House is as class-diverse as just about any eating establishment I can think of in India, the woman is more shabbily dressed and unkept than anyone I have every seen there. She is barefoot, and her hair is just beginning to regrow after a recent shaving. Her demeanor is introspective and slightly sad. The waiter brings her an extra-full cup, setting it gently before her as if to say that he wishes he could do more to alleviate her sorrows. In fact, he does plenty. The coffee brings a contentment to her face. She ... Read Full Story >>
Day One: cooked a pretty awesome (if I may say) dinner for two friends and my sister.
Day Two: picked-up a hitch-hiker and took him precisely where he needed to be.
Day Three: helped farmer friends, who are bandwidth-depleted this time of year, process some of their harvest.
Day Four: did a thorough cleaning of the public tennis courts and hit with an old man who couldn't get a game.
When I got a random email from his friend in India, I had a realization ... I was in communication with someone on the other side of the planet! The Butterfly Effect proved that a butterfly in California can cause a hurricane in Japan, but this was much more real. I seized the opportunity and told a friend in India: "Hey, can you give $20 to some random person that might need a break. I'll give you the money when we meet next." 'Experiment: Success' was ... well, you find out. Sorry to be so tardy in posting this note about the outcome of your "experiment" in connectedness, action, and compassion. We wound up deviating from the stated ground rules a bit. (In fact, we didn't even recognize that it was your experiment until it was already underway; and if that invalidates it, we'll certainly try again.) But here's the scoop. The folks we stayed with in Ahmedabad were ... Read Full Story >>
Day One of the Pondicherry – Auroville 21-Day Kindness Challenge posed a fun task: pay forward a surprise treat. I am riding by Indian Coffee House and decide it would be an excellent venue for my gift. 12 years ago, it was the site of a different sort of pay-someone’s-bill gift, not so much a pay-it-forward as an act of connection, bringing together three lives in brief moment over a cup of coffee. Indian Coffee House will be familiar to anyone who has read Yann Martel’s “The Life of Pi”, which begins at a table in that venerated Pondicherry institution. Indian Coffee House is the kind of place that is too-rapidly disappearing from Pondicherry: it is awful, yet charming. These days, Pondicherry restaurants are awful and not charming. Breakfast-time is something of a men’s club at Indian Coffee House, and today is no exception. The tables are packed with middle-aged men. How to ... Read Full Story >>