In A World Full of Haters, Let’s Celebrate the Humble Likers
IT IS very popular at the moment to talk about haters. Anyone, it seems, who doesn’t agree with you, or is slightly critical, can be simply dismissed as a hater.
I find it curious, though, that there is no equivalent expression for those who like you; who pass on compliments or express approval. There is no such thing as a “liker”, it seems. This strikes me as odd, because positive people are far more common than their negative counterparts.
Even so, when you encounter an act of kindness, it is often unforgettable, no matter how tiny it may be. Kindness is like anchovy paste or a chipotle, you see; a little goes a long way. Particularly in your hour — or moment — of need.
A few years ago I was on a city excursion with my daughter, Sunday. She had just turned six or seven, and we were on our way to meet her godmother for a mug of hot chocolate and a spot of weekend birthday-girl shopping. Although our destination was a delightful one, the journey there was less so. We had to race out of the house to give Sunday’s little brothers the slip, and the city streets were winter-damp and bitterly cold.
We slid our way through an arctic mist of rain before finally passing under the scaffolding of a new city skyscraper being built. Though incomplete, this building obviously had the new-millennium creed MUST CREATE A WIND TUNNEL as the architects’ design brief, and those talented professionals had certainly not ignored their instructions.
Anyway there we were, my wee girl huddled under my arm and half my coat. As we walked out from under the blustery gantry and waited to cross the road, I noticed that the sniffle Sunday had left the house with had turned into a proper runny nose. I also realised I had no tissues in my bag. No hanky. Not even a crumpled up paper napkin.
In front of us stood a couple; an older lady and her husband. They had the look of country people having a day out. They certainly didn’t appear to be downsized city-dwellers heading off to stock up on wool skivvies at a Saba winter sale. They looked comfortable and companionable as they, too, stood and waited at the lights. The husband held an umbrella over their grey heads, and when Sunday’s plaintive little windswept voice asked me again for a tissue — more urgently this time — I noticed the lady looked around. Sunday, in a panic by now, said: “Mummy, I REALLY need one!” and I was smote with that sense of failure at not having something so basic (so Mothering 101).
Then, just as my daughter was about to wipe her nose on her sleeve, urchin style, the lady turned to us and held out a mini packet of tissues.
She didn’t say anything, just smiled. Sunday said a shy but grateful “thank you”, as did I, then the lights changed, the couple stepped ahead of us onto the crossing and we all kept walking. I don’t think that lady’s husband even noticed the exchange, but I could’ve told him so much about his wife from that one, simple act.
I knew that she was well-organised and a good friend (for they are artful eavesdroppers). I suspect she was a mother and probably even a grandmother or, if not, then an amazing aunty. I know that she was practical, and that her husband was lucky to have her, and I knew why he stood and protected her from the rain: because she was lovely and precious to him. Most of all, I knew she was kind.