the power of kindness


I follow the rules of the road!

I was riding my bike tonight—at the top of a long hill, huffing and puffing, watching the full moon rise—when suddenly a car passed, and someone inside yelled, “You rock!” The youth then stuck his hand out the passenger-side window and waved it up and down, and continued waving it until I waved back, as though he wanted to be sure I’d heard him.

And it took me surprise.

No, no. It’s not that I’m not used to being yelled at while I’m riding. I get yelled at all the time. “F- you!” people say. Or, sometimes, “You idiot!” Sometimes they honk their horn and scream “Ahhhhh!” just to scare me.

And, unfortunately, it works.

See, most of the time when I ride—unless I’m in a place where I need to be directly mindful of cars (I’m a good rider!)—I am a million miles away. Riding and running are my escape. They are my chance to think about . . . everything. And because cyclists ride with traffic instead of against it, if someone thinks it’s funny to see a cyclist jump out of his skin, all they have to do is surprise him as they come up behind him.

It’s a cruel joke, honestly. I’ve nearly swerved into traffic or into a curb before when someone has decided to have a laugh at my expense. It also leaves my heart pounding and my mind in a tizzy: all I hear are those unkind words; suddenly, each new car produces a wince. Will this one yell at me? Will this one? Will this one?


Water wheel beside the scooter path in Sanjhih

When I lived in Sanjhih, a tiny town at the northern tip of Taiwan, I went running every morning before work. I ran down a hill and onto a scooter path through rice fields where locals, too, would exercise before the sun came up. Even at that early hour the humidity was stifling, but that didn’t stop elderly Taiwanese men and women from doing tai chi or speed-walking to traditional Chinese music crooning from portable radios strapped to their hips. I was the only blonde, of course, and one of only a handful of foreigners who lived in the town. This meant I was used to being stared at, or sometimes people just acted uncomfortable and looked the other way.

Except for one middle-aged man. He was one of the few runners I saw on the path, and every time we passed one another, he’d give me a thumbs up and say, “加油!” (pronounced, “jyih-yo”), which means “add oil.” It’s the Chinese way of saying, “Go, go!”

And every time he did, it made me smile. I’d give him a thumbs up in return, and he’d smile, and we’d go our separate, sweaty ways. But even after we parted, my smile stayed put. Hours later, when I recalled the man’s kindness, my heart would smile; somehow, that seemingly small act made it easier to go about my hectic day.

I was still smiling when I got home from my ride tonight.

normal_4 Thumbs Up

Thumbs up for kindness!

Images: Google

44 thoughts

  1. Reblogged this on The LP Record and commented:
    It’s amazing — the potentially great (large) effect of such a small, simple gesture of one person (especially a sincere stranger) to another.

  2. “There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

    As Melinda mentioned, kindness, warm greetings, engaging smiles, are all infectious. They remind us that kindness is not a dying art and found in the oddest places and at the best times. Be a multiplier! :)

    • That’s what I was going for with this post! We often forget the impact our seemingly small acts can have on others. I’m sure people who’ve scared me while riding my bike had no idea just how damaging their actions would be, in the same way that that kind man had no idea how far his encouraging thumbs up would go. My hope is that we all seek to encourage others, and to be kind.

    • Thank you, Matthew. I’m glad I could make you smile. Like Madhu said in her comment below, the power of a kind word (or, I’m going to add “smile”) is often underestimated… Means a lot!

    • It really is. Although I am naturally shy, I do my best to smile at people when I pass them or extend an encouraging word when I can. It really does make a difference—in my life, too!

  3. =)
    i learned the phrase “jyih-yo” from watching taiwanese dramas. (one of my favs is “Hana Kimi”.. it a fun teenybopper drama ^_^)

    there are too many fatal bike accidents in my city so i hope your city has better bike safety than ours.

    • Do you speak Mandarin, Sophia? So jealous… Jyih-yo makes me smile every time!

      My local area is a pretty safe riding area. I stick to roads with wide shoulders if I’m riding towards dusk or dark. :)

  4. I’m a bike rider too, And driving with the traffic, ie avoiding it, is a major pasttime. It does get a bit scary at times. I almost like it. Perhaps the difference between the Chinese man’s “add oil, way to go” and the boy’s thumbs up is the anxiety level: the boy’s rushed, desire to communicate as he rushed by in a speeding automobile. A difference in worlds.
    Hey. Keep riding.

    • That’s a good way to look at it, actually. Certainly the encouragement was given in different contexts, although it wouldn’t have surprised me if a Taiwanese man had yelled “jyih-yo” out of his car while I was running on the street.

      I’m gradually getting more and more confident riding with traffic, though I still hate stopping at lights on an uphill and would likely find riding in a busy city a bit stressful…

      Thanks for your comment!!

  5. Just last night, I had an occasion on which to ponder the power of kindness. There was an elderly couple at a convenience store where I was fueling, and after a brief hello, I found myself leaning over a map with them as they explained all the best routes to avoid the impending storm ahead. Of course, I was intimately familiar with all the available routes, and my job demands that I drive through horrific storms on a regular basis, but still, I enjoyed it; I found myself smiling at the couple as they expressed their concern; I felt well liked, and cared for. I had been by myself for a few days traveling, and the concern from these elderly strangers left me smiling for many miles down the road.

    Now, as for the screamers. This reminds me of a story. I’ll not get carried away with the details, but when I was younger, I was rough. Very. I remember walking down the sidewalk with a friend when we got a screaming F-you with a bird out the window from some young passer-by. We were doing nothing wrong, and had never seen the guy. So we calmly continued our walk to my car, then found the boy parked in a parking lot just up the road. What made it worse was that he was with his girlfriend!!! She seemed kind and good despite him. Anyway, It was fun ;) We made him cry. Even made him apologize to his girlfriend before he could leave. :D

    I let things like that slide these days. But fondly remember the satisfaction of it all.

    • That’s a really cool story about the elderly couple. Thanks for sharing. It’s really truly a nice feeling for all involved when someone goes out of their way to help someone else. You can’t help but have a little bit of your faith in humanity restored…

      As for the second story, you made him cry? What on earth did you do? I’ve just never understood why someone would feel satisfaction or get joy out of scaring or putting someone else down in such a fashion. To me, it just doesn’t make sense. That’s crazy that you made him apologize to his girlfriend. I think, for me, situations like that would always go a little bit differently since I’m a girl. ;)

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Good to hear from you!

  6. Eine schöne Geschichte Jessica. Sie gefällt mir. Fremde Kulturen haben z.T. geniale Verständigungsrituale. Das ist das interessante am Reisen und an Auslandaufenthalten. Saint Augustine, römisch katholischer Bischof, 354-430 nach Chr. sagte : “Die Welt ist ein Buch, und diejenigen, die nicht reisen, lesen nur eine Seite. „The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page“.
    In diesem Sinne liebe Grüsse. Ernst

    • I have to admit I don’t read German so had to use Google Translate to translate this! This is what Google translate said:

      “A beautiful story Jessica. I like it. Foreign cultures have z.T. ingenious understanding rituals. That’s the interesting thing about traveling and living abroad. Saint Augustine, Roman Catholic bishop, 354-430 AD, said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” In this sense, sincere greetings. Ernst.”

      You may not have seen it yet, but under the “about: the author” section on my page, I’ve listed that quote by Augustine as one of my favorites. I love it. Sincere greetings to you, too! I’m thrilled to be in touch with you and everyone all around the world. :) Jessica

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