x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Birds, camels and a rose: gestures of kindness we appreciate

A random act of kindness that made all the difference in my life

Every Friday, and sometimes whenever they happen to find some time for themselves, a group of labourers gather a sack of seeds and pieces of dried-up bread and distribute them to pigeons and birds along a public beach. The joy and happiness on the faces of these men is absolutely contagious, with random people who happened to be walking by laughing along and some even taking photos of these men and their birds.

They pose gladly, beaming, not really worried where their photos will end up.

Two of the workers sat right in the middle as the birds flew, twirled and landed near them – and sometimes even on them. Looking at their faces, these men looked like they were in heaven. A simple gesture of sharing had added so much to the lives of the men and their avian friends.

Then when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I saw a few of the men disappear into their lorry, bring with them plastic bowls filled with water and dried-up cat biscuits to give to stray cats that happened to be watching this whole commotion with great interest. Everyone in this scene was happy, including myself, and I couldn’t stop smiling.

A friend then suggested we buy them shawarma sandwiches, to complete the circle of giving. But someone beat us to it. The cafe’s owner told them someone inside a Range Rover who happened to be passing by paid for the meal. Then I saw one of the workers share his shawarma with an overly confident tom cat that strolled over to him and pawed at his arm. All I heard was “habibi” and everyone else pointing and smiling to this “habibi” who looked like part of the group. The cat forgot about an army of birds just a few whiskers away.

I couldn’t think of a more perfect day if I had to imagine one.

There is always someone struggling; sometimes they are far away – like currently the Syrian refugees – and sometimes it is someone that is just next to you. We all need the “aww” factor from time to time, but what we need more regularly is basic kindness and generosity of the soul.

Most of us have heard of the “pay it forward” concept, where you simply do good and random acts of charity and kindness. I once found a note tucked under my car’s window wipers with just “have a nice day” scribbled on it, which left me feeling all cozy inside. It took a moment to write and leave. It inspired me to do something nice for a stranger that same day. I found myself with a friend at a drive-through with a bouquet of flowers on the back seat from an office event. I pulled one of the roses and gave it to the lady at the drive-through window. “My Valentine!” she smiled.

It doesn’t take much to make someone smile. A while back I was attending a heritage event in Liwa, Abu Dhabi, I was still mourning the passing of my grandmother and must have looked sad despite attempts at smiling and being friendly because one of the owners of a string of camels handed me a baby camel.

“Here, a new family member for you,” he said. “Gift.”

I can’t describe to you the feeling as I carried this not-very-small camel – almost my size – to my car. It actually sat in my front seat, not sure how comfortable it was though. I kept petting him to calm him down when I saw his mother wailing for him and he was looking towards her and calling for her. I had the roof of my car down and could see that while it was a dream come true to have a pet camel, I didn’t have the farm nor the heart to separate the baby from its family. If I had the means, I would take the mother and child together. I explained that to the man and he, after some protest, agreed.

“But don’t be sad anymore. OK?” he insisted. He called the small camel after me, despite the fact it was male.

“Everyone will ask why is it called Rym, and I will say, because he made a Rym laugh and smile.” Rym is also the name of an Arabian gazelle, so he found it amusing to name a camel after a gazelle.

It was a completely random act of kindness and it made all the difference in my life.

rghazal@thenational.ae

On Twitter: @arabianmau