Standing outside St Ives’ quaint cinema, excitedly awaiting Cloudy With the Chance of Meatballs 2, the ticket I had given my daughter to hold, predictably slipped her grasp and took off with the wind.
I couldn’t leave my children to take chase, so helplessly, I watched it fly under a passing taxi, swirl around the heels of passers-by and finally come to rest on the front window of Co-Op.
To add to my minor distress, my son’s radioactive coloured ice-cream had escaped its cone and landed on the knee of his cream chinos. Mouth-wash blue ice-cream everywhere. Tears of devastation poured out.
Fortunately, and the reason for this post, a lady with a pram laden with shopping bags and a sleeping tot, stopped to help me. She parked her possessions and darted off to fetch my cinema ticket before another gust of wind stole it for good. When she returned, she handed me a pack of baby-wipes to clean up the melted blobs of ice-cream surrounding my son. And why did she do this? Did she want something in return? Or was she being genuinely altruistic?
Recently, I’ve been helping a friend promote her business in the local media. The reason? I believe in what she’s doing and I want to help. I can guarantee she’ll be thinking, why’s she doing this? I certainly would. When Geoff Thompson asked to mentor me and went on to introduce me to big-wigs at Bafta, the Groucho Club, as well as sending one of my scripts to a producer, I asked myself why? Why is he doing this?
I understand the answer to be, because he can and because he wants to. It really should be as simple as that. Besides ours is a reciprocal universe and so kindness is usually paid back to us in one way or another. Equally, if someone hurts you, the world will conspire to deliver their retribution, some time, some place. A very comforting thought.
I’m not sure when our suspicion for others’ kindness begins. Does it start in school when we learn about ‘stranger danger’? When we are told that the friendly man with the puppies doesn’t want you to just have a mint humbug, he wants more? Probably. We are programmed from a young age to distrust people, especially those who appear really friendly, as they’re the people most likely to snatch us.
This does present a dilemma for parents. I want my children to be open, polite and friendly to everyone, even people they do not know. But how can I teach them that not all ‘nice’ people have good intentions. If only all kidnappers looked like the Child Catcher, the ‘stranger danger’ lesson would be so easy.
Our experiences with questioning others’ kindness continues throughout childhood. I have witnessed this with my own children. When my son offers to give the remains of his Milky-Way to his sister, he usually demands a swap of equal value in return. She can have his Milky-Way, but she must hand over the caramel Freddo first.
For women, our mistrust of men offering us treats continues into young-adulthood. A drink bought in a night-club has little to do with concern for our thirst and more to do with the hopeful outcome of a quickie in the club toilets. Or that could be just my experience.
And sadly, when our husbands treat us to flowers, chocolates or a new dress, it is usually because he’s after a quickie on the sofa. Not my sweet husband you understand : )
It is hard not to be suspicious when someone offers to help us. But there are people out there who help because they want to and are not expecting anything in return. So embrace their kindness and take the baby-wipes. It could make all the difference to your day.
ps. The film was brilliant!