Amsterdam is a delight. On my 2nd visit to the city, a trip to the Tulip Museum to buy another decorative trinket bowl was an essential adventure (although I highly doubt my boyfriend shared this opinion). In fact, it was a purchase that taught me an essential lesson instead.
A simple dilemma: cash was needed, and I only had a card. As I fumbled through museum receipts and bags of bulbs, an American accent filled the room and a face behind sunglasses offered a 10 euro note to the shop assistant. In my state of fluster as another carrier bag balanced for dear life on my fingertip, I thought this lady was simply paying for her own goods. It took me several seconds to realise that she had simply bought the bowl for me out of pure human kindness, with no request of repayment. ‘Oh’ was the poetry that left my lips. ‘Did you just, buy it for me?’ the poem progressed. She smiled, a chain reaction then displayed by me and the shop assistant. ‘Yes’ she beamed, ‘I am loving the city’ was her justification for a gesture which instantly brought the early evening sunshine inside the shop.
Of course, a flurry of sincere thanks followed and as she (if only I had asked her name) walked away towards the canals, the shop assistant and I were left beaming. ‘I thought she was with you!’ exclaimed this other lovely lady – goodness does indeed attract more goodness. I confessed that she was a complete stranger and one of the best ‘well that was lovely’ moments I had ever experienced ensued. ‘She has made my day’ I gushed. ‘And mine’ the shop assistant replied, ‘you must pay the good deed forward’. I said my goodbyes clutching onto a little ceramic bowl that now held a fond memory and an even fonder message. Bouncing into the cobbled streets, the evening sunshine continued to glow. This encounter was an awakening at the very least, a reminder of the fundamental message we are taught as children: simply, ‘do good’ and most importantly ‘do good to others’.
Since saying goodbye to a weekend of canals, the current global situation has reminded me how important it is to hold the idea of a ‘good deed’ at the front of our minds. It is in the little things that we do at this uncertain time as much as at any other that can make a day, a true gift for many as the current days may seemingly blur into one monotonous cycle. A passing smile, a compliment to a stranger on their outfit (albeit it from a distance), a small charity donation and asking an elderly neighbour if they need anything from the shops are all acts of nobility. Of course, this way of goodness should be instinctive, a natural occurrence. But alas the world is busy and we become easily distracted.
As the global pace now comes to a halt, I am reminded once again of my mystery woman. I have been lucky enough to see so many gestures of kindness in our city and beyond over the last few weeks. In the midst of a crisis, I am confident that we have all learnt to be kinder to one another. Perhaps it takes a cloud of grey to truly appreciate the warmth of the sun. The most invaluable lesson we can learn is how to keep this warmth at the forefront of all we do and to share this with our friends, colleagues and the strangers we pass each day, both in crisis and in peace times.
So, thank you to an angel disguised as a tourist who visited the Amsterdam Tulip Museum in March. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of being helpful and empathetic, the importance of kindness and the importance of a million and one happy emotions that come together to form the closest thing we shall ever get to magic that is a ‘good deed’. You are a stranger who lit up my heart before I even realised how much it was needed. I hope we are all starting to live with lighter hearts as we act upon the message yours and so many other people’s recent acts of kindness and sacrifice resonate. It is more than a simple gesture; it is ultimately a way of life that we should all strive to achieve whenever possible. I hope one day I can buy you a pint to say thank you. In the meantime, I will just keep ‘paying it forward’.