This happened to me a few days ago. I had been to hospital to fetch my chemotherapy drugs and I had to fill up my car. I drove in to the petrol station and stopped at one of the pumps. A petrol attendant came to me and asked what I needed. “Fill it up please, unleaded.” – a sentence said a million times each day in South Africa. This is one of those automatic, anonymous interactions that passes by us without registering anywhere on our consciousness radar.
After filling up the tank and washing the windows, I handed over my credit card to the attendant, and he saw the state of my hands. “Are your hands burnt?” He asked, half out of shock, half out of concern. “No,” I explained, “it’s a side effect of chemotherapy, I have cancer.” Immediately, he turned into the most caring kind person. “Oh no, thats terrible, I hope you are OK. There was another man who came here a few days ago and he was also on his way home from chemo.” We had a little chat, one of those where a random someone’s empathy warms your heart and sets the mood for the day. What a gentle soul he was.
I paid, gave him a tip and thanked him for his concern, and drove off, touched by this man’s kindness. Some people are just really special like that, and the ordinary nature of interactions should not blind us to the fact that there is a human on the other side.
I share this because by sharing this story, the warmth of that moment will spread, and that’s how we win in this crazy world of animosity, misplaced resentments and prejudices.