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Acts of Kindness

In the last few hours before settling off in what I expect to be the journey of a lifetime (or the start of a lifetime of journeys), I can’t help thinking about kindness and its ramifications.

By Bruno Cinti

“WHEN THE NEWS REMINDS YOU 24/7 THAT THIS WORLD IS AN UGLY AND DANGEROUS PLACE TO TREAD, YOU DON’T EXPECT ANYONE TO CATCH YOUR BACK.”

Unlike Ms. Dubois, I wasn’t used to relying on the kindness of strangers. When even friendly hands have been proved to bite, how can you trust people you don’t even know? When the news reminds you 24/7 that this world is an ugly and dangerous place to tread, you don’t expect anyone to catch your back. Especially when you belong to a minority and regarded as a kind of freak. It was traveling, of course, which showed me how utterly wrong I was, and most of all hitchhiking.

Hitchhiking is a leap of faith for both parties. So many things could go wrong when you share the tiny space of a car with someone you don’t have the faintest clue about. Yet, for me it has always been magical. I have been literally rescued from situations that could have been at least very uncomfortable (getting lost in the Black Forest in Germany or having to spend the night in a road in Patagonia without any equipment, for starters) by drivers who decided to take a chance on me. Moreover, after some friendly conversations, some of them even got out of their way to see me safe to my destination. I remember hiking for more than 25 miles around a lagoon one day, only to realize I still had more than 20 miles ahead and night was falling fast. I had to catch the last train to get back to my town and it sounded more and more impossible as cars weren’t even slowing down at my lifted thumb. I couldn’t really blame them: the shadows huddled my figure, making me look somehow scruffy and bulky. I was losing hope fast when suddenly one did stop. There were three generations of women inside. The grandmother even went to the backseat with her granddaughter to allow me to sit in the more spacious front seat. The mother drove me not only to town, but first to a bus station and -when I couldn’t get tickets- then to the train station, where she waited until she ensured I could get home. She wasn’t scared of having a total stranger in a car with her family. Or maybe she had been for a split second, before her kindness won the battle.

While preparing for the trip I’m starting today, I also received amazing acts of generosity. Friends and acquaintances showered me with everything from a place to stay on my last days in Buenos Aires to six-month’s worth of testosterone shots, including also camping gear, trekking shoes, money, contacts and lots of love. I have been rendered speechless by their gifts and affection. Most of the things that worried me have been solved and again I feel rescued by kindness.

“EVERY DAY I TRY TO GIVE BACK TO THE WORLD JUST A TINY BIT OF WHAT I’VE BEEN GIVEN.”

I try to do my share too. I strongly believe kindness to be the modern heroism. Making others happy is the ultimate superpower. So I try. Every day I try to give back to the world just a tiny bit of what I’ve been given. It might be only by smiling at someone who needed it, or by letting go of a pretty little thing that would make someone as happy as it made me. Sometimes the only thing that I necessary is a nice word or a little time to help someone in need. Or matching a stray kitten with their forever family. Sometimes it does involve some hassle or hard work, but it always makes me immensely happy.

There is no joy like the one in connecting with other beings. Nothing has been as effective as kindness when it comes to dethroning my dark thoughts about being a sort of monster that no one could love. And even when I watch the awful stories in the news, replayed by media who seem intent on making us fear our neighbors, I don’t let it get me now. Because I know about the raw, primeval power that exists in such a simple gesture as reaching out for the hand of another human being.

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