An article in the ‘Scotsman’ newspaper last week recounted an incident from a Food-bank in Cardiff. They’d been given a tin of Heinz kidney soup dating back at least 46 years. The same Food-bank had been ‘gifted’ a 35-year-old tin of sweetcorn. According to the article, the ‘Green Giant’ branded sweetcorn still had its price label of 8p. A spokesperson for the Food-bank was careful not to dissuade generosity and acts of kindness, but was firm in their statement that they did not want donations of antique food.
Whist we may complain about lack, and look at shop window displays of beautiful things – knowing just where we would put them, or wear them, or drive them – most of us, in this country, have, as a wise man once told me, ‘enough to do us’. Yes, we might like to have more, and I know that reliance on Food-banks is rising, but generally we have enough to get by. Of course, having enough, doesn’t stop me from wandering into John Lewis’s fabric department to stroke the opulent velvet Liberty curtain fabric at £120 per square metre. I close my eyes to envision it draped around my sitting room windows. Nor does it stop me looking at holiday snaps shared on social media, then going to my window to look out onto the morning that hasn’t arrived, and wishing I could swap the bleak forecast of gales for Spain’s clement weather.
Often, though, it isn’t the big sweeping acts of kindness, or huge gifts, that touch one most deeply. Before I lived alone I would wake up each morning to discover that the ‘fairies’ had washed the dirty dishes from dinner the night before. It was an act of kindness that meant so much to me. The dish-washing fairies don’t know where I live any more, but there are other acts of kindness that come my way still. Shorty after I moved to Scotland, I arrived back to my flat one evening to find a large cardboard box on my doormat. Around that time, I had taken receipt of a few parcels for a neighbour upstairs, I thought perhaps Postman had left me another for safekeeping. This box had my name on it, though. Upon opening it I discovered a hamper of food from two friends back in Ireland. A random and much appreciated act of kindness from M. and P. that still makes me smile long after the goodies have been eaten. All gifts given are a wonderful act of kindness but those that are received out of the blue, not attached to a birthday or particular date, can especially delight. As is the case with the book that S. gave me last week that is inspiring me with photographs and wise words, and the silk scarf I was given on the same trip from a different S. I’ll wear it today, a little hug of love around my neck.
I wonder about all this advice I am doling out and dredge my memory to see if I have acted upon it myself. I could re-model the paying of a toll for the driver in front of me at the Tyne Tunnel last month as an act of kindness. Truth be told, I was getting frustrated that he had chosen the cash-only booth when he had no cash, so I gave him £2 a little tersely so that I could continue my journey up North unimpeded. Such sharp generosity is not so far removed as giving away tinned food from the 1970s! Sending out-of-date tins from the back of the cupboard to Food-banks may not be quite the way to share the abundance, but there are other ways to perform acts of kindness. I’ll get my thinking cap on!