So these thoughts have been floating around in my mind for a while now after reading Josh Radnor’s article about kindness, but something happened today that made me actually want to write something. Something that made me feel quite angry and disgusted by other people, even though it didn’t happen directly to me. So maybe I just want to rant, or this is a way of me trying to get rid of the yuckiness I’m feeling at the moment. So maybe it’ll help. Maybe not.
But let’s start by talking a little bit about Mr Radnor’s (us young people probably know him better as Ted Mosby) article. I’m not going to recount it – if you’re interested you can read it yourself here http://www.latimesmagazine.com/2008/10/josh-radnor-kindess-hollywood.html. But in that piece he talked about how kindness is everything to him, and that it’s important, as a person, to be kind to everyone else, especially, (and this is the part that made me think) when you would prefer not to be kind. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist. According to the guy who seems to take forever to meet his fictional wife (sorry I had to throw in a reference), it’s not our place to judge who’s worthy of our kindness. As difficult as it may be sometimes, I agree – no matter how angry or frustrated we are at something or someone, we still have to show basic human kindness. Kindness, and courtesy.
Which brings me to my rant. How can showing basic kindness and courtesy be so hard? Well apparently it was hard for a person who came in to our firm today wanting some help. Just for a bit of background, I’m a solicitor working at a small suburban law firm which deals with everything. Anyways. Some people have referred to us a man who needs some help regarding a family law issue, which we are more than happy to help with. We tell him to come in, which he does. But then that’s when the niceties stops. When he meets my colleague, who is Muslim and wears a hijab, he suddenly refuses to meet her eye, talk to her or even shake her extended hand. He refuses our services and sits down in our office to immediately call the referral agency to demand to know why he was referred to a Muslim. Knowing that he was never going to accept our services, my colleague hands him some family law brochures just to point him in a better direction. Surprise surprise, he refuses to take or even touch them, and leaves, but not before shouting at her that she’s been brainwashed.
After our initial shock wore away, my first instinct was to chase after him and forcibly poke him with a long stick (read: beat him over the head with a baseball bat). But then, my colleague started laughing. She said that that’s just the way it was, our profession and clientele as it is, although it was her first time to encounter such direct racism. It may be that I had been offended more than her. If you had not wanted our service because you felt uncomfortable dealing with an Asian and a Muslim, fair enough. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, and I’m not going to think less of you if you just shook hands, said no, thanks for your time but I’ll be going now. Hey, we could even get a drink someday. But to be so vocal in your racism and to not even show the simplest courtesy? Sorry but after thinking about it, you’re not worth my energy swinging that long stick.
Isn’t it ironic, though, that we, as Australians, think of ourselves as one of the most tolerant people in the globe? All the multiculturalism and cultures around, and yet someone can show so much hate and racism just by a few simple actions? But that’s not my point. You can be as racist as you want, but if you still shake my hand even though you don’t like me, you still know basic manners. And I’ll give you credit for that. I realised that it wasn’t the racism I was concerned about. I take racism as it is – it’s always going to be there. But it’s the way you deal with it that defines who you are in my opinion.
I don’t think it’s beyond anyone to show simple kindness and simple courtesy. Just because we don’t like a person for any reason, be it age, race, sex, orientation or anything else (including personal vendettas), it doesn’t give us the right to treat them without respect, without courtesy, without kindness. Even the people who treat everyone else without courtesy or kindness will still receive kindness and courtesy from my end, because it’s not about them. It’s about you, and it reflects who you are. And as hard as it may be, I’d want to always try and treat everyone with basic manners and kindness.