Acts of Kindness while Abroad

Marian Arnold, Producer/Presenter, ABC Classic FM My Knight in Black and White
I was very young, travelling in Europe alone. I arrived in Athens by bus late one night and got up the next day full of anticipation. But some time after I left my hostel, I became aware that I was being followed through the streets by somebody I thought looked like a particularly undesirable character. I made several complicated turns designed to lose him, but to my alarm he was not deterred. I was frightened enough to feel that if I made a mistake in where I was going, in this unknown city, I was really at risk. So, hoping to gain some time to think, I sat down at a table in a street-side café. To my distress he followed, and tried to sit down at the same table. But in this café was a waiter who obviously summed up the situation at a glance. Without my asking in any way for help he came to my rescue, not only evicting

the man from the premises but pre-empting every attempt he made to re-enter, and allowing me to stay there un-harassed for as long as I needed. I sat there for several hours, stretching out my Greek coffees until it was apparent that there would be no further reappearance from this man. I was so grateful to this kind waiter, who spoke very little English, and who simply brushed aside my thanks with a big smile. And after that I was able to go and visit the Acropolis in peace.

Marian Arnold has been playing music on ABC Classic FM’s listener requests program for fifteen years.


Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Author, Brisbane QLD Kindness is Contagious
I was in my twenties and travelling alone through the UK. Wanting to be able to reach locations that were off the public transport map, I bought an ancient bomb of a car, drove it around for three months and sold it before I returned to Australia. The car cost most of my money, so I lived mainly on porridge during that trip, it being cheap and filling. In Ireland, my Youth Hostels Association passbook was stolen, and Dublin headquarters told me it was impossible to get another. So for the rest of the trip I camped out in my car, being too poor to afford bed-and-breakfasts. One morning I awoke in my venerable Skoda under a gnarled hawthorn tree on a remote lane in the Irish countryside, with no more than a single house in sight. I had a terrible craving for a steaming cup of tea and some hot water to make porridge with so that I would not have to eat the gelid leftovers from the previous day. My thermos had gone cold overnight so I knocked on the door of the house. A woman opened it. Hot water? She wouldn’t

hear of letting me get away with just that! I was whisked indoors, seated at the breakfast table with the family, looked after and given a delicious breakfast, as much as I could eat. It was bliss to eat something other than porridge! I ended up being the best of friends with the whole family. Oh, and they filled my thermos before I left … That was only one of many acts of kindness strangers showed me when I was travelling alone in foreign regions. One London businessman rushing to work, seeing me struggling, offered to haul my ridiculously heavy suitcase up several flights of stairs in the Underground. After he’d done so, with a smile and a wave, he vanished into the crowd. Kindness gets passed on, and for good reason – because it makes us feel happy. I acquired quite a rosy glow the other day when I was able to point out a rare parking spot to a young man who had been driving around the railway car park looking increasingly desperate. His grateful smile was all the reward I needed as I dashed off to catch my train.

Cecilia Dart-Thornton is an international best-selling fantasy author. Her books have been reviewed in The Washington Post and New York Times, and have been translated into Italian, German, Dutch and Russian.

Tim Fischer AC, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Ambassador to the Holy See Kindness of a Train-travelling Stranger: All at Sea near the Holy See
After a few weeks as the new Australian Ambassador to the Holy See based in Rome, I needed to escape the crowded and congested but vibrant city of Rome and get some fresh air. So one Saturday morning in early spring 2009, with the sun shining brightly, I caught a bus to Termini Station, then successfully used the automatic ticket machine to purchase a return ticket to Castel Gandolfo and back. All aboard and soon we were hurtling southwards towards the extinct volcano and magnificent crater-lake, about 25 kilometres south of Rome and 1,000 feet above sea level. Suddenly the train came to a screeching halt, near but not at, the Ciampino railway station. After about twenty minutes the conductor ordered us all out in a combination of Italian and increasingly frantic “yelled”

English. As we were walked across the tracks and eventually delivered to Ciampino Station, utter confusion reigned. In the course of changing trains I was befriended by a young Californian student who had more Italian knowledge than me. Alas, we found the TV monitors at Ciampino Station conveyed zero information with regard to how to get to Castel Gandolfo after the previous train had broken down. However, the Californian went back to basics and established which was the regular platform for trains to Castel Gandolfo. He then advised me that we should move to this platform. Eventually a train arrived, unannounced, but the new conductor confirmed in the strongest terms possible that this train was indeed bound for Castel Gandolfo. It was a case of “All aboard” again, and within half an hour we were through a tunnel and looking out on the magnificent crater-lake, along with the Pope’s summer palace, and celebrating our arrival against the odds. The name of the stranger who had offered great kindness and guided me in the circumstances was Derek Maudlin, both a student in Italy and budding author with a good outlook on life. All’s well that ends well, although one week later, Derek was mugged in Barcelona and had all of his money taken. The good news is that it was his turn to be helped and I heard that he was rescued and greatly assisted by his friends and family. It has to be said there is something about the ambience of train travel that lends itself to a degree of friendship between strangers and, above

all else, the exchange of information when inevitably trains are in breakdown mode.

Tim Fischer AC is a former politician who retired from Parliament in 2001. Tim served as Deputy Prime Minister in the Howard Government from 1996 until returning to Cabinet in 1999. He is also the author of four books.


Amanda McLeay, Weather Presenter, Channel 10 Brisbane Our Oral Angel
I’ve always loved the sound of the Italian language. Its expression, its passion, its romance. And how I wished I’d learnt it – needing urgent assistance in an unfamiliar land, when you don’t speak the language, can prove a great challenge. Throw in an extreme toothache and two weary adventurers with no knowledge of the health system, and you’ll find my partner and me in Syracuse, Sicily in the autumn of 2001. The toothache had been building over time – but a backpacker’s priority is to spend their limited coin on dreams of a lifetime, not dental drills; to embrace life experiences, rather than medical experts. But eventually my travel mate’s severe pain could no longer be ignored, reaching a brain-zapping high just as we arrived at our small hotel. The well-meaning staff behind reception stared at us blankly as we pointed at our mouths, moaning “oooohhh” in


a poor attempt to act out a tooth infection and find some medical assistance. We were just giving up, wondering what to do, when a man appeared out of nowhere and uttered four magical words: “You need a dentist?” We sure did! And we were in luck – his best friend was the town’s most reputable tooth doctor, and would see us without delay. Our Oral Angel not only made the appointment, he insisted on driving us to it, then shuttling us to the farmacia to stock up on medication as well. If it wasn’t for his generosity of time and spirit, we would have been in all sorts of trouble. We certainly wouldn’t have been able to savour the culture and colour of such a magnificent town. We wouldn’t have been able to taste the best seafood Sicily has to offer at the local markets. Or soak up the history during our relaxing sunset strolls. Our new Italian friend brought back my partner’s smile  – quite literally – and wouldn’t accept anything in return. As for the language? The translation of the dentist is il dentista … a lot easier to say than to act out!


Shane Stuart Ellis, Lawyer and Executive Director of Equity Protect Business Giving Gives Back
I truly believe that there are a lot of magical messages and insights portrayed in many Hollywood movies that we can all learn from. I love the part of the movie Evan Almighty where God, played by Morgan Freeman, turns to the very Moses-like Evan Almighty, played by Steve Carroll, and says to him, “Have you worked it out yet?” Evan looks at God and says words to the effect, “Worked what out yet?” God says, “The whole ARK thing?” Evan looks perplexed. God says, “ARK stands for an Act of Random Kindness.” A look of understanding sweeps across Evan’s face. In late 2007 I was with my family in France for the Rugby World Cup. On this particular day we had been at a Laundromat getting some of the essentials cleaned before the next leg of our journey, and I had wandered around the corner to the local

7-Eleven type of store. I was standing at the checkout with a cool drink. In front of me in the checkout line was a little African French boy with the family groceries on the counter and a small ice cream. He had paid for the groceries for the family’s evening meal and was pushing the coins from the change around in his hand in a frantic way to get them to add up to enough money to be able to afford the ice cream treat. His parents must have told him that if there was enough change he could buy himself a treat. I often used to have the same types of trips to the corner store for my family when I was a kid. Anyway, it was clear that he didn’t have enough money for the ice cream. I looked at the checkout lady and said to her in English that I would pay for it. The little boy had no idea what I said and looked at me and then at the checkout lady who smiled and explained to him in French what was taking place. The little boy looked up at me and presented me with one of the biggest, cheesiest grins I have ever seen on a child. He was beaming from ear to ear. He politely said to me, “Merci monsieur, merci!” and grabbed his family’s groceries, and his ice cream treat, and skipped off down the street as happy as a lark. My Act of Random Kindness had cost me about one euro. The little boy was ecstatic. I was even more so. The feeling I got when he smiled at me and humbly thanked me in French paid for that simple one European dollar many thousands of times over.

Every day I watch out in life for where I can help someone. Letting people into lines of traffic, or talking to older people who look lonely, or wherever an ARK opportunity may arise. When I speak to students in the senior years of high school in my lectures I tell them my story of Evan Almighty and then about the little French boy. I then invite them to look towards applying the ARK principle every day in their lives, noting what a great place our world would be if we all took the time to do so. How about you? Why not seek out your opportunity for an Act of Random Kindness each day and see how it changes your life, let alone those who receive your little gifts. Enjoy!


Justine Davies, Columnist for The Australian Sometimes it’s the Smallest, Trivial Things that Stick in the Mind …
For professional reasons I spend a fair amount of time in news processing: reading, surfing the net, watching the evening bulletins. And sometimes when the news is bad it would be easy to believe that the world is a selfish, uncaring place. Yet when I walk my kids to school and kindy each day, I see plenty of evidence to the contrary. Small acts of kindness are all around us. There is the chap who leaves for work super-early each morning, but who helps his elderly neighbour first by retrieving her newspaper from the lawn and leaving it on her doorstep where she can reach it more easily. There is the young mum who walks two other dogs each day when she walks her own, and the family across the road who offer bags of apples and limes to all and sundry when their trees are laden. These acts of kindness help to transform a street into a community.

And there are plenty of examples further afield, of course. Despite their frenetic pace of life, New York and Tokyo are two of the most amazingly friendly and courteous places that I have ever experienced. It was on a plane flight a few years ago between these two cities that I experienced a random act of kindness which I will always be grateful for. My husband and I were at the tail end of a three-week holiday in the USA and about to head to Japan for a week. We had taken our two small daughters, aged two and a half and nine months respectively, with us. Our first overseas experience as parents. Anyone who has travelled with small children will know that it is an amazing, exhilarating – but extremely exhausting – experience! By the time we reached John F Kennedy International Airport for our late-evening flight from New York to Tokyo I was – well – it’s fair to say that I was running on reserve energy. Beyond tired. As a parent, though, there’s no such thing as catching a quick nap. So we herded our wide-awake-and-full-of-energy kids through the various lengthy check-in points, corralled them into and out of a café, negotiated them through the crowds of people and generally tried to amuse them for the two hours or so before we boarded our flight. I was so looking forward to boarding that plane, putting our oldest in front of a DVD and settling our youngest into the bulkhead crib that we had pre-booked. I figured that I had just about enough energy and good humour left to get to that point! In boarding, though, as we squeezed our way down the aisle,

I realised that we had lucked out in terms of the bulkhead – it wasn’t to be! Instead, we were in a cramped middle row with seats in front and behind, and I was looking at the prospect of trying to nurse (and restrain from crawling around the cabin floor) my wriggly, so-not-tired nine-month-old for the next twelve hours. There was no chance of moving – the flight was packed. I know that it sounds trivial, but if I had just finished a marathon and someone told me to run another one straight away I couldn’t have been more crushed. Still, we settled in and tried to get comfortable. Then there was a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me Ma’am,” said a pleasant-looking man. “Would you like to exchange seats with us?” He gestured to where his wife and young daughter were sitting – further towards the front of the plane – in a bulkhead row. “Our daughter is eight, she can amuse herself quite happily on the flight,” he continued. “We thought that you could better use the space.” To exchange our cramped, middle-row seats for a bulkhead row? Surprised, we thanked him but shook our heads, no. It was too generous. He insisted though, and we soon found ourselves changing seats. The extra leg room and, more importantly, the crib for our baby, made the world of difference to our comfort. We ransacked our hand luggage and found a gift for his daughter as a thank you, and finally relaxed. It wasn’t a world-changing action and may seem like a silly example to readers, but often it’s those small acts of random

kindness that stick in the mind. Whenever I think about that lovely couple it brightens my day.

Justine Davies is a finance writer, blogger and author of How to Afford a Baby, How to Afford a Husband and An Inconceivable Notion. Justine writes a weekly finance column for the News Limited papers, is the money expert for Women’s Health magazine, Practical Parenting magazine and Body+Soul, and has long-running blogs on “Essential Baby” and “News. com.au”.


Emma Ayres, Presenter, ABC Classic FM Pyjamas in Iran
It had been a long day. I was in the middle of a what you might call an adventurous, maybe idiotic, solo bike ride from England to Hong Kong, and had spent a hot day cycling about 150 kilometres from Yazd, in central Iran, to a tiny little town with one tiny little hotel. A tiny little hotel where I planned to stay the night. Iranian New Year is an all-encompassing affair, something which I had not quite realised when depending on this hotel for my bed. In fact, when I turned up on my bicycle, suitably dressed in demure clothing and really quite tired, I was understandably disappointed when I found out the hotel was closed for New Year celebrations. I stood outside the building, trying to not look as forlorn as it did, and weighed my options: No. 1 – bang on the door until they let me in No. 2 – camp in the desert

No. 3 – cry No. 4 – go to a mosque and rely on famous Muslim hospitality No. 5 – call my mum Out of these, I felt that really only numbers 1 and 4 were sensible options. Just as I was mulling them over, a handsome bearded man with a deranged-looking small boy came over to me and said in halting English, “You need sleep?” I certainly did. Sleep, a lot of food and indeed a beer wouldn’t have gone astray, however I stuck with the sleep thing and said “Yes please!” And so it was that I followed the man on my bicycle, him driving his Hillman Hunter, to his home in this tiny town in the middle of Iran. Nobody knew where I was, nobody knew me there and I could only trust my instincts. The man was a primary school teacher; he and his wife had just this one terrifying-looking child, but they had many cousins, all of whom were invited around to meet me and eat a meal of outstandingly delicate chicken, rice and yoghurt. We sat on the floor on rugs, they happily felt my muscles and examined my bike, then we all went out for a drive around the town. The grand highlight was the azure-coloured mosque, a religious ship in the desert sea. The man’s wife lent me her chador so I could enter, and when we returned home, they rolled out their bed for me, and the man lent me his pyjamas. I wonder if the manager of the tiny little hotel would have done the same …

Emma Ayres has been the presenter of Classic Breakfast at ABC Classic FM since 2008, but began working there in 2004. Before working in radio she was a professional viola player for twelve years, studying at London’s Royal Academy with members of the Amadeus Quartet and later working for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.


4. Acts of Kindness in the Formative Years

Morris Iemma, Former Premier of NSW Goodness is All Around Us
I’ve got rich memories of some special people who were there when I needed them as a child and a teenager, and I’m proud to share their stories because I could never have achieved anything in life without their kindness and generosity. The first story is about a elderly couple called Mr and Mrs Poulter, who looked after me while both my parents, recent migrants from Italy, worked six days a week in factories. In fact, I spent so much time with these wonderful people they became my “Nan and Pop”. Sadly they’ve passed on now but I’ll never forget them. Two other special and enriching influences were teachers – Mrs Erskine and Mr Cohen.

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