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  • Duncan Evans

Random Acts of Kindness

I was working for a degree in procrastination but I kept putting it off.

Last week I was reminded to publish this post by the offer of a ‘free birthday gift’ from Marks & Spencers, thanks M&S.

Almost two years ago, I had to take a trip with my three children, then aged 1½ , 4 and 8 down from Newcastle to my parents in Derbyshire.  I’d lost my job (again), I needed money to help pay the bills before I started a new role with a new company and had sold my car to pay said bills.  WeBuyAnyCar had been very obliging and had taken my Mazda off my hands for a beneficial knock down price providing me with enough money to contribute about £400 to the joint account and enough cash for a small banger (part funded by my parents).

 The journey to Derbyshire was not without its incidents, as any parent juggling the needs of three young children will attest to.  Bus journey, to train journey, to WonderWagon journey (my sister’s car); I still wonder why she bought it.  Then to the familiar surroundings of my parents.  Strange when you have difficulties in life, good parents are always there, even if you might not always agree with them.  Philip Larkin (to paraphrase) wrote, ‘they f$#% you, your Mum and Dad, they don’t mean to but they do.  Some people with hang ups in life, or issues blame their parents, yet for most they were just simply trying their best.  There is no manual for parenting, no unilateral do this and ‘x’ will result, why?  We are all different, we all see, hear and experience  things through different filters and from alternate perspectives.  So the funding for the Seat Ibiza my Mum contributed towards was her just helping me, being there for me, doing her best.  Unfortunately, I hated that bloody car.  And what’s more I resented her helping me, I wanted to do it off my own back, to pick up the pieces myself.  To stoop with worn out tools and build ‘em up. Yes my favourite poem paraphrased again

 A new beginning was required, at that point I was only six weeks without a drink and still adeptly counting bottles of wine in friends’ homes I visited.  I’d managed to find a job and to try to come up with a plan on how to ‘get better’, to change.  The look on our children’s faces when, on my birthday, we decided to explain that we were separating was painful, the ensuing thoughts of losing them, of not having regular contact, of having let them down because of my selfishness was somewhat uncomfortable.  I worried that my daughter might be helped to her Christening by someone else, that I’d be estranged from her and not be able to walk her down the aisle some day, that I might not be able to take Theo to his first football match or that Loic in the midst of everything (because he is so thoughtful) that he might get forgotten about.  Those thoughts have never gone away.  I still have a point to prove.  To no one but myself.  Consistency is the hardest thing, for you it appears easy, at least when I look at you, for me, hard.

 The training is tough at present, oh, I can do the miles but the day in day out, the week in week out, not so easy.  I have a good week then a bad week.  Work affects me, how I feel with the people around me, whether I feel supported or not, the criticism, just or not of a guest who has perhaps not enjoyed their stay; I take it all in, mix it up, taste the flavours of opinions and some weeks unfortunately masticate and savour too long, other weeks I can swallow or spit, but either way there’s always a lingering taste.  What helps is the run, the slog, the sweat, the loneliness yet even these moments of thought, peace and solitude can be sullied by the melange of mixed up thoughts.  So I remind myself why I’m doing this and I remember something that happened on our journey two years ago, remember bus, train, wonder-wagon.

 The bus the kids love, not sure why, especially the top deck.  They enjoy the train more though.  Newcastle to York, York to Burton-on-Trent (if I remember rightly).  The second was a forty minute delay and we all ended up sitting on the floor of the crowded carriage in the gangway doorway, like some destitute family off the local council estate (sorry no offence to anyone).  On the first part of the journey Newcastle to York it was a little before midday, kids had had breakfast but they wanted elevenses.  Amelie had a runny nose, Loic and Theo were talking about super heroes but all of them were hungry.  Ill-prepared father, no tissues, no juice boxes, no snacks and with the prices of food on the trains not enough money to purchase enough snacks to feed the three.  Kicking off, I think most would call it.  We were sat separated by the aisle in two rows of two.  ‘We’re hungry Papa’.  ‘I’m starving Papa’ and so it went on, for at least five minutes, possibly ten.  I was a mess, I was sweating, I seemed unable to calm them, I felt like the worst parent and then the lady who I will be forever grateful to handed each of my three children a bag of Quavers.  She was probably saving them for her grandchildren.  She smiled at me, did not judge and asked if I minded.  At that moment in my life I was looking for answers, signs, anything to tell me I was worthy of the three people I was responsible for, as well as whether I was worthy of self.  Looking out at the fields and hedgerows rushing by I cried, I wiped the tears away so that the children did not see what a mess I was but tears rolled freely, no sobbing but genuinely thankful for that one lady’s selfless act.  And so, that singular gesture has become part of my life.  I didn’t ask for it, but it was freely given, no recognition, no catch, no reward, just a small gesture.  Unfortunately, I never have seen myself to be a selfless person, I’ve always wondered what’s in it for me and perhaps to a degree I’m still like that, but (if only I could emphasis this) everyday, I’m trying to be worthy of that one random act of kindness.

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