General Fiction posted August 14, 2019

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Reassuring acts of kindness. (1,309 words)

Finding My Faith In Youth

by LisaMay

Found It Contest Winner 

I lost it for a while – my faith in the youth of today. It seemed all the news was bad and the evidence before my own eyes confirmed it… wanton vandalism, offensively loud godawful music played until all hours of the morning, broken glass strewn across the streets after their wildly debauched parties, rubbish spilling from their unkempt student flats in the university quarter. And they are the leaders of tomorrow? Lord help us! 

It is all so disheartening – selfish behaviour, antisocial activities, drugs and violence and bullying in schools and terrible driving and road rage and bad language and, worst of all, those awful clothes they wear! And all those horrible tattoos and metal things stuck in their noses and eyebrows. 

It makes me want to get a ‘device’ myself so I can walk along the street staring at it mindlessly like they do, and be spared having to look at them. But then I might be run down by their careless lack of attention when they ride those stupid motorised scooter things too fast on the footpath! Life’s a bugger when one is a grumpy old fart, but it’s those young ones who caused it. 

Last week, I caught the bus to my local shopping centre to get some cat food. She has been unwell so I have been pampering her, tempting her with morsels of quality food to build up her strength. At the moment, her grocery bill is more than mine. I am a pensioner and have to be careful with my money, but I want my best friend to be healthy.

It was drizzling rain when I left home and the bus stop is down the hill, around the corner, and some distance beyond that. My umbrella got blown inside-out a while ago and I had not yet purchased a replacement, so upon arrival at the designated bus stop I was damp. A scruffy young man was waiting also, sheltering from the elements under his big brolly. He looked just the sort to have an addiction, or at least a hangover, and his clothes certainly proclaimed him to have no sense of taste or style at all.

When he turned to me, I was expecting to see a sneer on his lips as well as a stud or tattoo. But he smiled and held his brolly over my head! Then he chatted to me, asking about my day. I hadn’t been out of the house for a couple of days and his conversation was so welcome I melted with gratitude.

The bus arrived and the nice young man ushered me to enter ahead of him, holding my arm so I could get onto the step. What a lovely boy! The bus driver looked like he was having one of those days. He was definitely in a grim mood – no smile, a complaining tone – and he was going to spread his woes. He was giving us oldies a bad name by using the poor communication skills of a much younger person.

My hands were cold. I fumbled through my handbag looking for my pensioner free bus travel card. I could not find it! The driver was drumming his fingers impatiently, then he said he would charge me full fare. I could not believe his idiocy in sticking to the letter of the law: no card, no discount. Aren’t my grey hairs and wrinkles enough evidence of age?

A young woman, already seated, jumped to her feet and flashed a money card at the meter and a smile at me. Just like that, my ticket was paid for!

I stumbled down the aisle – the driver had thoughtlessly taken off before I was seated – and another nice young man stood up so I could have his seat. Chivalry and manners do still exist!

When I got to the supermarket, I noticed an untidily dressed young woman setting up to do some busking near the entrance. She was getting a guitar out of its battered case. I was pleased that I had arrived in time to be inside the store, and not be subjected to her screeching and wailing trying to be passed off as singing, accompanied by unskilled strumming.

In the supermarket, one of the items I required was on the top shelf. I could not reach it, but a nice young man got it down for me. I also bought a newspaper. In the confectionery aisle, I had a conversation with myself about whether I could afford some chocolate as a treat, but decided against buying any.

When I left the supermarket, the young woman was still playing. Unbelievable! How could she really think she should be entertaining the masses outside a supermarket! Why was she putting such music into the airwaves right here?! I nearly cried in disbelief at the quality. 

She should have been in an international concert venue – Carnegie Hall perhaps – delivering her beautiful rendition of a complex classical guitar piece, reminiscent of Segovia’s musical phrasing and style. I was happy to put my spare coins into her guitar case.

I made my way home, gave my cat some food, and had a nice cup of tea before settling in to read the newspaper. Now what is this I read? Tucked in among the murder and mayhem is a local ‘feel-good story’. We have several former refugee families living in our city, mostly Syrians. They are guided into our lifestyle, where to go shopping, find a doctor, learn to drive, arrange education etc. through a volunteer network supervised by the Red Cross. 

The newspaper article related a situation that happened a few days ago at a supermarket across town. A Syrian woman was at the checkout with her three school-aged children and a trolley full of groceries. As a recent arrival, she was unfamiliar with our money, and also the cost of things, so was haltingly trying to explain (with the help of her volunteer) that maybe she would have to prioritise some items and not buy everything that had been checked through.

Rather than being annoyed at the delay, a young man stepped forward and paid the $170 required. The Syrian woman did not immediately understand what had happened, but was able to hug the man before he went on his way. He didn't want to make a big deal about his generosity. 

The story in the paper went on to say, "They couldn't believe the level of kindness that someone would do something like that for a perfect stranger." He wasn't the only one being nice to the newly-arrived family. The story continued: “The mother's headscarf attracted plenty of attention in the supermarket – all from other customers saying things like ‘welcome to New Zealand’ and ‘welcome to Dunedin’. The Red Cross volunteer described the local community as generous, but she was still ‘gobsmacked’ at the act of kindness, which reminded her ‘there are still good people and good young people’. Afterwards, both the mother of the family and the volunteer sat in her car with tears running down their cheeks."

There is often a lot of negativity about immigration in the media. Isn’t it nice to share something so positive? We cannot all pay for the groceries of others at the checkout, but we can all say 'hello' and 'welcome'. Small acts of kindness given can be huge to those receiving them. I know that feeling myself when ‘Umbrella Boy’ smiled and talked to me last week. 

So, having previously lost my faith in the youth of today, would it ever be found again? My plaintive rhetorical question has now been answered with a resounding “Yes!” I have been reassured that I do indeed live in a caring community, where young people are compassionate, thoughtful, connected, and skilful. All is not lost.


Writing Prompt
Write a story where your character found something that impacts his or her life. Maximum word count: 2,000 words.

Found It
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