Lenten reflections 2020-3 ‘The Give’: the power of politeness and human kindness

My family, especially my eldest daughter, know and understand what I call the theory of ‘The Give’, in my words, give a person the chance to show you that the milk of human kindness flows through their veins.

As I thought, earlier, I saw this post:

This is really The Give in action, and corporations can do it well, anytime. For me and my family, though, it comes in other ways.

My eldest sent me a little WhatsApp note yesterday saying she’d gotten a US$40 fee reversed for something that was totally her fault but had simply asked.

Often, corporations recognize a customer’s plight and look to ease it; it’s good customer relations and builds immense goodwill.

You see, The Give works when you don’t press or demand someone does something for you. It often works best when you have no expectations at all, expect perhaps a little consideration.

Earlier this week, I contacted Virgin Airways about damage to my luggage that I noticed while in transit (part of the handle had been broken, making it painful to push the large bag). I’d called the airline and was speaking to a lovely representative. I admitted that I had not filed a formal report, though had pointed it out to the baggage handlers, and taken a photo for good measure. She went through the need to complete a claim form, asked about the cost of the bag (US$150), and its age (2 years) and that the case would be reviewed. She went off to check my reservation details. When she came back on the line, she said “Forget all that, I’ll just refund you $150 for the damage. Is that alright?” Well, yes! I said I’d post a complementary note on social media, which I did almost immediately.

My kids know that I love to try to be humourous, sometimes failing, especially when dealing with people doing routine work (eg cashiers waiters, etc.), but they’ve often seen that ‘consideration’ repaid.

A friend and I were out last night in an Indian restaurant. The waiter asked if we wanted starters; neither did, but I said “Unless you’re giving us them for free…” He said he’d bring us some poppadums. Well, he brought them and a platter of chutneys and sauces! 🙂 Well, thank you!

That restaurant shoots up the list of places to head for next time I’m in the Euston area, for sure, and anytime I feel the curry bug in London.

But, The Give gives in simple ways. Ask my family about where I get parking when we go out. It’s often just in front or very close to where we want to go. The important thing I tell them is not to put negative thoughts in the way with things like “There’s nowhere to park!” or “Why is it so busy?” Better to deflect, if you like, and accept that parking far away is what it will be; we have legs; we’re healthy; we can walk. Then, lo and behold, a car pulls out, the space is right, and in I go 🙂 “Daddy, how do you do that?” When my youngest was much younger, that was a common cry.

I’m conflicted about what may just be blind luck at work, eg when you don’t usually buy lottery tickets but end up with a decent prize the one time you decide to bend. I don’t think finding large sums of money counts, either, even though the law may say ‘finder’s keeper’, not least because the other part is ‘loser’s weeper’. Narrow escapes are still a possible effect, but I’m agnostic about that.

When friends and I were in a car that went into a ditch in Mexico, and were rescued by a truck load of campesinos (instead of being taken by bandits) counts, in my mind. As does having my car hauled out of a gully in Kingston by a group of men on a street corner and their pushing me to a ‘shop’ (in an abandoned house) where a mechanic worked on the damaged transmission for four hours to get me straight. His pay? “Whatever you think is fair” he said.

I think The Give has a counterpart, which is like ‘paying it forward‘–passing on the benefits of a good deed–and being willing yourself to give something seemingly for nothing other than as an act of human kindness. If that’s true, then we are just seeing the getting back of what you are prepared to give. For biblical support, you can check Matthew 18:21-35-The parable of the unmerciful servant.

Finally, ego is no part of The Give; rather humility is. Yes, one can feel good about what benefit one receives, but the idea isn’t to then go crowing about it (though sharing the instance with nearest and dearest is alright, in my book, if only to confirm what we know.)

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

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