x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Teen takes time to acknowledge the small kindnesses in her life

Teens are the great shining stars of the show in our cosy models of the solar system - forgetting to acknowledge the people who may play small but significant roles in our lives.

Teenagers live in a small sphere, viewing everyone else with bored detachment. Our friends, family, crushes and perhaps teachers will exist somewhere outside the hazy atmospheres of our self-contained worlds. We are the great, shining stars of the show in our cosy models of the solar system. Too often, I've realised, I forget to acknowledge the people who play small but significant roles in my life - but I'd miss them if they weren't there.

Every morning when I set out for school, our bus conductress Anne trips down the steps with a dazzlingly bright "Morning!" and takes my bags and monstrously heavy guitar case from me, setting them securely at the front of the bus. It's a simple gesture but it makes something as trivial as boarding the bus go from unremarkable to a friendly sort of experience - and it means I don't destroy my stuff by banging it all over the place as I scoot down the narrow aisle.

Our bus driver, Ravi, is the jolliest - and sharpest - person I know, gravely telling me once, while shaking his head sombrely, that I bring my guitar to school far too often and would be better off spending my time studying. He'd know, too - his daughter gets top grades every year at med school in Chennai, India. In an impersonal, fast-paced world, it's pleasant when someone takes a moment to chat and shows an interest in your existence.

Ravi also never fails to say "Bye!" as we file off the bus when we reach school. The farewell has almost become a good-luck charm to start the day on. Once, someone on the bus forgot to say the customary "bye" to Ravi after we reached school. The student had walked a good way from the bus when he stopped and went racing back to get his lucky adieu. "I've got an exam today," he remarked to the rest of us by way of explanation.

Inclined to present a cynical angst to the world, teenagers do feel kindly disposed occasionally. We appreciate it when one of the cashiers at the school tuck shop remembers every student's usual order, and turns to reach for the Dh2 ice-cream sandwich even before you've said hello.

I left my mobile phone in a school bathroom after a concert one evening, and the cleaner who found it called the last number dialled. Being a popular, cool sort of person, the last number I had dialled was my mother's, so I soon got the message that I could pick up my phone in Lost Property the next day. I don't know if I'd have been tempted to keep it if I was in the cleaner's position but his honesty was touching.

I'm feeling a bit like a girl guide counting others' acts of kindness. I'll be plotting my good deed of the day next, and goodness knows how long it's been since I did anything that may be classified as a good deed.

Then again, I learn everyday that unexpected gestures by the most unexpected people can restore our faith in the goodness of humanity.

The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai