03 December 2014

The Kindness of (Almost) Strangers

Seven years ago, maybe more, when Ferdi first came into our life, when he looked like this (ie. freaking adorable), we lived in an apartment in Potts Point. I'd always had dogs, and those dogs had always slept wherever they wanted, even if that meant my bed. But my husband hadn't had a dog since he was a kid, and he was of the view that dogs should sleep on their own. So we put Ferdi to bed in the laundry, then headed upstairs to try and get some sleep. 

He was just a little puppy, so he cried. Oh man, did he cry. All, night, long. But there were two solid doors between us and his cries, so we managed to block it out, mostly. 

He'll learn soon enough, we thought.* 

What we hadn't realised was that there was only a thin wall between Ferdi's night time spot and our poor neighbours, so whilst we could tune the cries out they were pretty much stuck with them. We hadn't been living in the apartment all that long, so we really didn't know our neighbours. But we had kept them awake with puppy howls. For a week. Not good.

They could have written an angry, abusive note. They could have made a complaint to our landlord, or to the council. But instead they came and knocked on our door one day with a big fluffy soft toy. They said they'd heard a puppy crying, and they thought it might provide some comfort. I was horribly apologetic of course, and embarrassed, but I was also incredibly touched. Wasn't it the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful approach ever? 

I've been thinking a lot about this recently - the kindness of almost strangers. I don't know about you but I'm in the midst of a pretty teary fortnight, and not all of it can be blamed on hormones. I adore social media, I really do. It connects me to all kinds of people all over the world. But it also connects me to the tragic, unfair, horrible, nasty, inexplicable and just plain sad things that can happen to those people. 

Lately it seems every time I check Facebook or Twitter I end up shedding tears over the death of someone's dog, or grandma, or dear friend. I hold my breath as a domestic tragedy unfolds, or a health scare freezes a family in their tracks. Not to mention the relentlessly depressing news - the treatment of refugees, the funding cuts, the arrogance of those in power. 

And then I tear up again when I see the online community, this community of almost strangers, band together to offer their love and support, and hope, and passion. (Good lord I am getting sentimental in my old age. Cynical teenager me would be horrified right now. But not activist pre-teen me, she'd be cheering.)

There's so many people doing so many thoughtful things, big and small. There are people making awesome stuff so they can raise money for things they care about, there are people organising donations of gorgeous handmade things for kids who really need them, there are people putting out their batsThere's the friend who gave her postie a bucket of homegrown broad beans (and who got a thank you note scrawled on her mail the next day, complete with recipe). And there's the online community creating a special secret surprise for someone who is going through a pretty tough time right now. There's fellow dachshund obsessed loving people, helping each other out. There's my Mum, banding together with other Grandmas to do this

There is so much kindness out there, it's humbling. And it reminds me - it's a choice we make, to be kind and thoughtful and generous, in whatever way we can. It's a choice to ignore the cynics and do something, however small, even when we are feeling distant and helpless. So, what do you choose? 

*In the end we caved and now both dogs take up more room on the bed than we ever do, but that's another story.


  1. Love this Em, what a good story about the number and reminder that if we try we can always find an approach that brings comfort and joy instead of confrontation

    1. Yes. I do think sometimes you have to be strong and assertive, and sometimes you even have to be not nice at all, but on the whole I think we can always find ways to be you can still be thoughtful whilst doing it. I might be naive but I like to think the softer, gentler approach will always get better results in the end x

  2. I can so relate to this on a few levels!! We brought home our 8 week old mini dachshund pup last weekend and on the first night he cried the house down!! It went on for hours and my husband and I decided at 2am to get up and sort it out which resulted in me sleeping on the couch with a much happier puppy. He has since been transitioned into his bed which he seems to love. The next day I said to my husband that we really ought to take some flowers to our neighbours because the noise out of Albert (the puppy) was pretty impressive!! So I took some sweet peas and also our puppy and knocked on their door. Turns out that yes, they had heard Albert cry for hours and yes, it had woken up their household but they were only concerned as they thought the noise was coming from our much older dog and wondered if she was ill. We've always thought they were nice people but I was pleasantly surprised that they were only concerned about the noise - very thoughtful people indeed!
    So far as online stuff goes, I have started avoiding reading the news lot these days. I really can't stand all the terrible stories out there and the older I get the more it seems to get to me. A few recent stories in the media of newborn babies being abandoned (not always with a happy ending) has made me teary in particular. However the older I get the more I appreciate that for every rotter of a person, there's 10 nice people. And also sometimes the smallest thing can really make someone else's day.
    On another note, despite all the crap stories out there, every now and then one comes along that really makes your day. Here's one I read last week that made me cry (in a good way!):

    1. That story of the stray for is the best! I love it for so many reasons, thanks for sharing it. And I reckon your right on the ratio of rotters to nice people. Not sure if I'm just noticing it more but I'm seeing a lot more little acts of niceness day-to-day lately too - people giving way in traffic, waving pedestrians through, helping people with heavy bags, that kind of little stuff all helps too!

      Oh man, as much as I have puppy envy seeing your IG photos right now I do not envy all the joys of training - the sleepless nights, the toilet training....

  3. oh Emily...my Hubby is of the persuasion that dogs sleep outside, and have a designated chair. we are rustling because i love it when they jump up and snuggle with me on the sofa. Hmmm. battles..... your post is so beautifully written...you have a lovely soul xxx hang in there sweetie x

    1. I secretly have a grudging respect for the dogs are dogs and should stay in there place people - I bet they don't have to cringe every time they take there very poorly behaved hounds out for a walk! So maybe your husband has a point. But doggy snuggles are good too, especially for me given my hubs travels so often (I'm home alone about half the time, the dogs make me feel not so home alone!).

      And thank you xox


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