Dubai diaries: The kindness of strangers

Dubai - A compassionate deed from someone who doesn't have the means but has the heart teaches us we all can make a difference.


Anjana Sankar

Published: Sat 19 Jun 2021, 9:32 AM

When it comes to giving, UAE does it like nobody. In fact, it gives till it hurts. As a journalist, I see evidence all the time. Here at Khaleej Times, we regularly run stories of people who are in desperate need, most typically a domestic worker, a labourer or a family in financial distress, usually due to no fault of their own.


Every time we print a story like that, our email inboxes fill up with offers of assistance, our phones won’t stop ringing from people willing to donate, and our social media accounts are flooded with help. Even royal family members step in, serving as role models for how the more fortunate can help their less-fortunate brethren.

In the UAE, which celebrated a Year of Giving in 2017, this generosity has become a norm, perhaps even expected.  This is a wealthy nation, with many people who are financially fortunate and believe in the ethics of kindness.

But what melts my heart, though, are the acts of generosity and compassion from those who themselves are struggling or don’t have much extra; the people we see every day who are working hard just to make ends meet in their own lives.

A few weeks ago I got into a taxi, heading for a shopping mall, and realized to my horror as we arrived that I had absent-mindedly left my purse -- with my wallet, mobile, and cash -- at home.  The fare was not a lot for me, just Dh15, but I knew it represented a more significant sum for the man behind the steering wheel.

I assume that he, like all taxi drivers here, is probably working twelve-hour shifts, hustling to meet his required daily targets and earn a commission on top of that, hoping to save beyond his expenses here in order to feed his family back home.

My heart sank as I explained the situation to him. “Don’t worry, madam. Please go and make sure your purse is not lost,” the Pakistani driver said with a smile.

This is not the first time I was at the receiving end of generosity. Once I was leaving a parking lot of a shopping mall in Abu Dhabi and didn’t have the Dh10 I needed to exit the structure. I was stuck, and the drivers in line behind me indicated their displeasure through their repeated honks.

A gentleman who was washing cars came to my rescue, giving me the cash I needed to pass the gate. He certainly did not have much to spare, washing cars all day in the heat and humidity, breathing the fumes of an indoor parking garage, but he smiled, waved, and told me he did not expect anything in return.

A day later, when I went back to return the money, he hesitantly accepted saying a good life is all about giving. These stories may not grab headlines, and no newspaper will ever run a story about them, but we should lift them up and celebrate them nonetheless.

Kindness need not be a grand act of generosity; a small, compassionate deed from someone who doesn't have the means but has the heart teaches us we all can make a difference.

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