A Child and a Dog – My Efforts in Kindness

This might seem weird as a confession, but I don’t consider myself to be a very kind person. I mean I don’t go out of my way to make anyone’s life hard or anything, but I don’t look out for ways to help either. Perhaps partly because I don’t get out much and work from home, so my real life interactions with others are limited. I also get hit by existential angst periodically and during one of these miserable moments, I read that being kind to others is a great way to feel better about yourself. Since it’s something I haven’t really tried to do actively, I resolved to test it out and see if it works.

So naturally I turned to the Internet for help. I went to Google and typed in “Kind things to do”. I got some suggestions like mow the neighbor’s lawn and help an elderly person across the road etc. But since my neighbors have no lawns (and I don’t have a lawnmower anyway), and there was no elderly person crossing the road when I peeped out, I was stumped. Besides, I’m also an extremely lazy person and if I’m going to be kind I want to do it in the easiest way possible so I could get some of the “feel good” benefits touted by those who recommend kindness.

So I modified my search term to “Kind things to do online”. This way  maybe I could be kind without actually having to leave my chair. I wouldn’t mind donating some money etc. I got some interesting suggestions like message someone when you’re thinking of them and donate to some cause. So I messaged two people I was thinking of and checked out the website of a charity I could donate to. But they were flops. Neither person responded to my messages and Anupa convinced me that merely throwing money at a charity wasn’t going to make me feel good in any way. It had to be a more direct sort of kindness that would make me feel good. Something where you can actually see the impact you’ve made in a tangible manner. Merely sending out money isn’t going to cut it.

Basically since I’m chasing after the good feeling that being kind brings, I’m not going to donate money when I don’t get that feeling even if it does help the organization or the person in question. So I was kind of stuck. I want to be kind, but can’t find an easy or convenient way to do it!

In the last 10 days however, I found two opportunities to be kind and it feels pretty good! You get a nice warm fuzzy feeling afterwards in the knowledge that your existence made a difference to another entity. An actual tangible difference even though in absolute terms it may not be much. But that’s cool. Apparently even a little brings you some benefit. So here are the two kind things I did in the last 10 days.

In the first incident, I was taking out the trash as part of clearing out my house for the move back to India. As I was approaching, I saw a little kid struggling with a garbage bag half his size. And it was in pretty bad shape – torn at the bottom, with stuff spilling out and he was struggling to keep up, putting things back in only to have it fall out again. My own hands were full so I couldn’t help immediately, but I hurried up and by then he was in the middle of the road with half the contents of his bag strewn around. He was so tiny, he couldn’t even have reached the opening of the trash container! So I helped him pick the stuff up, then inverted the bag so the hole was on top and it was held at the bottom by the closed opening. Took some doing, but I managed. And the kid was grateful, said “Thank you”, and I went back on my way. And it sure felt good to help. Yep. Very little effort on my part and someone’s day was just a little bit easier because of me. I wasn’t a complete dead weight on the earth :)

My second act of kindness took place yesterday back in India as I was getting some chicken rolls for dinner at a nearby shop. As I was inside, I saw a hungry mongrel snooping around for scraps outside. You know the type – India’s filled with them. Skinny, miserable, and probably starving. I’ve already talked about the horrible price increases in India in a previous post, but a crazy voice in my head told me to just buy a full piece of chicken and serve it up hot to the mutt. I peeked outside, but he had vanished and I couldn’t locate him. So I went back to waiting wishing I had been a bit faster. Around 10 minutes later however, he was back again and this time I told the guy behind the counter to just take out a piece of chicken and give it to me without fanfare. I was worried the mongrel would disappear again, so I forked over the cash and rushed out with the chicken piece. He had gone out of sight, but I located him nearby.

Now I know that there are a lot of poor people in India and some may ask why I chose to shower largess on a dog instead of a human. Well, for one I don’t value human life more than the life of a dog and well…hungry is hungry right? It’s a common denominator. Still, I didn’t want to lay down the juicy piece of chicken too visibly in front of others so I caught the dog’s eye and headed behind a car innocuously. He followed me warily. I laid it down and casually walked off so no one would see what I did. A quick look back confirmed that he had picked it up and was walking away with it to a safe place.

And once again, I felt great! A creature’s life was better because of my presence. No matter if I don’t “accomplish” anything in life or die unknown. I still made a difference. Someone’s life was better because of me, and that’s a knowledge I’d like to keep experiencing over and over.

I learned two things from these incidents. One, they happened out of doors. They were both real life interactions that I would never have had sitting in front of a computer or reading in my room. They weren’t virtual, but real. Second, they were serendipitous. I wasn’t looking out for them, and wasn’t planning it. I wasn’t volunteering at a charity or doing it in the regular way of life. They happened unexpectedly out of the blue.

I don’t know if either of these conditions is necessary to get the “good feeling” from kindness. Certainly I think real world interactions are more satisfying when it comes to things like this. As for being serendipitous, I wish there was a systematic way to do kind stuff without it becoming burdensome and without taking up any responsibility. I don’t want to “take up work” or something like that. It seems the best moments are those which catch you off guard when life just hands something to you. But I’m open to suggestions from anyone who has a good way to do a lot of kind stuff “ad hoc”. Some way to regularly get that “warm fuzzy feeling” when you help a living creature and make their life better.

Does anyone have some tips?

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13 thoughts on “A Child and a Dog – My Efforts in Kindness”

  1. You got the opportunity to be kind because you were looking for it. Previously when you didn’t care to be kind, you couldn’t be bothered to help another being. But once you started looking for it, you found your candidates. The kid and the dog were always there, you weren’t.


  2. You had to google on how to be kind? Something wrong with your existence in this worl and sorry to say, the way you were brought up


    • In reply to Abhi

      I’m a vegetarian only in India – in the US, there’s simply not enough veg food to keep me alive! I tried for three months and gave up. I just got back…time to be veg again, and thanks for reminding me :)


      • In reply to bhagwad

        Glad to help :)

        And the US isn’t so bad! I’ve been living here for the past 6 years and never had a problem staying away from meat and it helps that I love food and I’m willing to try new stuff. YMMV of course, but once I had a car, never had a problem finding good vegetarian options.


  3. I used to send food to a neighbour who drove around every evening, no matter what the weather and fed homeless dogs. I also supported a group of people in my neighbourhood who got all the dogs sterilised and required shots. Didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling with either but it was a task that couldn’t not-be-done… for a warm and fuzzy feeling I think those we help should appear to be in genuine need but should not appear to be taking us for a ride, that is probably what makes it easier to help someone who is in some ways vulnerable – a child, an animal or some old?

    Trying to think of when I got a warm fuzzy feeling by helping someone last… hmm…


  4. i dont go out of my way trying to find ways to be helpful. the universe just brings them to my door and i help the best i can…. thats it….a clear happy conscience…


    • In reply to Jai_C

      Hi Jai, long time no see!

      Sorry for the delay in replying – didn’t have access to secure Internet for a couple of days. I read the article you linked to and it’s extremely insightful. I completely agree that if your goal is to objectively help people as much as possible and not the “fuzzies”, then donating to charities that save the most lives/confer the maximum benefit is the best way to go about it.

      In fact, there should probably be just one or two charities in the entire world that everyone should donate to using that criteria.

      I freely admit however that I’m not such a good person. In my heart of hearts I’m an utterly selfish person – even if that manifests itself as feeling good about helping others. In fact, I would say that coldly giving to charity even if that charity saves the maximum number of people is impossible if you don’t feel somewhat good about it. The author of the post talks about “being good” and “seeming good” as if they’re two separate things. But I believe that everyone has to “seem good” at least to themselves in one way or the other.

      In any case, thanks for the awesome link!


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