Day 10: Be Kind to a Stranger

It’s Buddah’s birthday! What serendipitous scheduling for this challenge. Kindness and compassion are so Buddah-esque.

Happy Birthday Buddha!

Let me confess that the night before this challenge, I began to worry about completing it. I mean, it’s not like you can control the strangers you encounter. What if nobody needs help? What if my attempt at kindness backfires and I offend the person instead? My concern was amplified by the fact that I live in a foreign culture where misunderstandings and miscommunication are a daily occurrence. I tried to envision natural opportunities for kindness, but I couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t awkward. I started wishing there were bums where I live so I could buy dinner for them. If only I lived in San Francisco.

Then, I remembered that none of that is the point of this challenge. It’s not about me or how I will be affected. It’s about showing kindness to others in any way possible, from flashing a genuine smile, to letting someone go ahead of me in line, to holding a door open. I try to do that sort of thing every day, but today, I wanted to step it up a notch.

Turns out, it was incredibly difficult to find a natural opportunity to do that.

Buddha’s birthday (Seokga Tansinil) is a national holiday in Korea. Everyone has the day off. Colorful lanterns adorn the streets and temples, and Buddhists go to temple. There’s a big service, much like Christmas for Christians. Except, here, they give all visitors a free lunch. The only obligation is to wash your own dishes when you’re done.

So my friends and I went to Yakcheonsa, an enormous and beautiful temple nearby. We wandered around, took photos and enjoyed a picnic lunch, courtesy of the temple. When we were finished eating, we got in line to wash our bowls and plates, but we noticed a stack of dirty dishes next to the washing basin. Apparently, some people hadn’t followed protocol. So when our turn came to wash our dishes, we did some extra — and that was my big act of kindness for the day.

Pathetic, right?

I tried to notice bigger and better opportunities to help someone out, but I found nothing. To make matters worse, yet better: A complete stranger showed kindness to me.

At night, the lanterns at the temple, much like Christmas lights, are all lit up. I L-O-V-E Christmas lights, but I’m telling you, I think those lanterns are even more beautiful. So I went back to the temple after dark, by myself, to take photos.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a tripod, so I was resting my camera on random surfaces and doing the best I could to get a nice photo. As I walked up the steps to the main temple, a man with a camera and tripod was walking down. I said hello in Korean and smiled. He paused. I paused. He said something I didn’t understand and showed me the photos on his camera. They were spectacular. I tried to convey my admiration with ooohs and aaaahs and “beautiful,” a word most Koreans seem to know. We smiled at each other and continued on our way in opposite directions.

A few seconds later, he came back up the steps, and with no language communication, offered to help me. I tried to gracefully decline, but he was determined. He took my camera and attached it to his tripod. I thought that would be the extent of his kindness, but then, he took the lens off my camera and replaced it with his fancy lens. He then proceeded to compose a shot for me that I never could’ve gotten without his help. Here it is. Isn’t it beautiful?

The Kindness of Strangers

Come to think of it, random acts of kindness happen all the time here in Korea. I can’t count how many times a total stranger has done something nice for me, my friends, even my Mom when she came to visit. Maybe it’s the Buddhist culture here. I don’t know, but I think it’s amazing.

So, now, my goal is to make every day “Be Kind to Strangers Day.” Maybe, eventually, I can repay all the kindness that’s been shown to me.

What story would you like to share for Day 10?

Tomorrow’s Challenge: Eat Only Healthy Food
To see what else is coming up, check the 30-day Challenge List .


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8 thoughts on “Day 10: Be Kind to a Stranger

  1. Gorgeous photo, fabulous writing, lovely message. I’m so proud of you for following through with your blog, and writing about your own 30-day challenge while encouraging others to s-t-r-e-t-c-h their own boundaries every day. Sounds to me THAT in itself is an act of kindness which will only continue to ripple, positively, through each of us tuning in. =) Keep it up. xoxo Love you.

  2. Great story, well told. I believe you could have pulled that picture off without the strangers help, but you had to be kind. lol From my travels, I’ve discovered that strangers in strange places seem to be friendlier. Or, maybe that’s what I see because I want to…seeking out the beauty and positive vibes, ignoring the bad and ugly.

    • Thanks Bill! Yes, it does seem that strangers are friendlier when you’re away from home. Maybe it’s the vibe we give off, or maybe we’re more open to help. Makes me want to be more helpful to the foreigners when I get back to the States.

  3. I agree that this is a hard one. I tried to keep the challenge in mind all day. I did my best to be friendly to a couple I didn’t know at the club today. Then I sought out a friend who had indicated that he could use some help getting his range finder GPS set up. It involved going to his house and working with his computer. I went out of my way to be helpful. He was not a stranger, so this really didn’t count towards the challenge. Finally, I took YoM out to dinner on my golf winnings. There was a 60 something singer (who was very good) at the restaurant. As we left, I put a 5 dollar bill in his tip jar and told him I enjoyed is singing. He was a total stranger, and I think he recognized the kind gesture. The real point is, when you are looking for ways to be kind, kindness will flow from your attitude. I think this was a worthwhile challenge. Thanks for thinking of it.

  4. This was a bit of a challenge as it was a travel day home from a long weekend at Mom’s. As it was, some small things presented themselves along the way. At a restaurant, we offered to move to another table so that 3 women could have a more comfortable space for breakfast. On the way out, we held the door open for a couple who were oblivious to act.
    Thanks for this challenge. A continuous flow of small kindnesses to others is bound to bring more happiness to this world.

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