Kindness Lives

Many, in these past years, have made selfishness their mantra. Throughout the day, people tell each other that everyone’s hearts have hardened and that kindness is no more.

But kindness is not dead. Even in Addis Abeba, where life moves fast, kindness lingers.

Resources are scarce for the residents of Addis. Taxi queues are long, and the second they become disordered, people physically push one another to get the available seats. It becomes a dog eat dog world, where the physically strong walk all over those that are weaker. Desperation pushes many to become selfish, but these moments also create an opportunity for kindness towards others.

We live in a city where the young still give up their seats for the old, and in some cases even leave the taxi so that the most vulnerable could have a seat.

The other day in the taxi to Megenagna, a woman volunteered a Birr to the passenger who could not find the extra coin needed to take him to the end of his destination.

In another instance, a friend of mine, as he made his way to work, was asked gently by an elderly passenger to pay the fare for him to Piassa. The old man, with a long white beard and clothed in white, looked desperate. My friend after paying the taxi fare decided to give the old man all the change he had in his pocket. The extra 30 Br earned him not only smiles but endless praises.

The old man then relayed that he was on his way to register for his third-grade classes. Someone who could very easily be a grandpa was on his way to learn the basics of science and mathematics. My friend made all of this easier with a small gesture of kindness.

We share not because we have too much but because we are each responsible for one another. Ethiopians may not be known for their charity work, but they are givers.

The kindness of many Ethiopians is the reason the less fortunate line the streets. I am sure there are those who turn others’ misery into an industry to pry on the kindness of others. But imagine knowing that as you enter a taxi, cash in hand or not, you will make it to your destination if you approach others with sincerity.

The kindness of the city is a part of every day that many are unlearning as our country develops. I contemplated this with a taxi driver who told me my ways seemed too idealistic. He continued to advise me on how to handle the harsh reality that surrounds us. He quoted my age as if it was the major flaw of my idealistic disposition. At that moment, I felt intrigued by this long philosophical conversation with a stranger. A conversation with a person who was living life according to the “ways of the world” while calmly explaining how it should really be. But I felt cheated. Even though this man understood my point, he said that I could not survive long in the fast-moving world and that I would be alienated because of my beliefs.

I have a moral compass like many; something just feels wrong while others seem right. But as many take the initiative to distort what feels right to find a place in this world, I feel the need to say that “you are not alone”. There is no real need to change the core of kindness that resides within us. It is simply to do what my friend and countless people do every day – make small gestures of kindness that matter to someone.

A few good deeds accumulate to mean something in the long run. And that big picture is not an idealistic, imaginative place where only the “I” matters but where we all matter as a community. We are as strong as our weakest link. If the poorest in our nation shelters in a home that is not adequate, then we as a society have failed. But even to reach there, we must take our time to look around us and make the changes necessary to benefit those that are most vulnerable.

Every individual plays his own game. But today let us take one step back from our daily lives and breathe. Let us take a moment to realise how insignificant our lives are in the entirety of this universe, while at the same time noting what a miracle it is to breathe and roam this earth.

Let us not take a moment to unlearn kindness but embrace it. If one feels alone in their positive dispositions, you are not!

By Hanna Haile
Hanna Haile ( is an Ethiopian writer, researcher and social worker who uses her writing to promote social and gender equality, identity and women’s rights. She is one of the organisers of Poetic Saturday at Fendika Cultural Centre where she performs spoken word poetry every first Saturday of the month.

Published on Oct 28,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 913]



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