Act Of Kindness
In October 2003, I had a contract to work as an English teacher at a private high school teaching M4 / M5 listening and speaking skills. It was only a 6 month contract since I had to return to my home for personal reasons. I enjoyed my work term and was often astounded at the kindness of the Thai people … especially younger Thai students.
I had a situation where I had to conduct a business transaction in my homeland over the telephone. A fax or e-mail was not sufficient…they wanted to hear my voice. It was a situation where I stood to make a few thousand dollars if I completed this transaction by a certain time…otherwise the opportunity would disappear.
I went to the local 7-11 and bought an international phone card. I lived about an hour from Bangkok, near an international university. Since the 7-11 was on the edge of the campus I was sure that there was a pay phone that accepted this card, otherwise why would they sell it?? I waited till the last day (I'm basically a procrastinator) and to make this phone call I had to do it during business hours which meant searching for this pay phone at midnight.
I went to the student canteen and searched high and low but could not find any phone that took this card. I wandered over to security and asked the guard, who knew little English, if he knew where a phone could be found. He took me to all the phones he knew …. nothing. It was now 1:00am. I was mad at myself for procrastinating and though I would not lose money, I would lose the opportunity to make some.
As I was leaving the campus, three male students about 18-19 years old approached me. "Do you speak English?", I asked. "Nit noi…" was the reply. I showed them the phone card and they started to look for a phone. We went everywhere I had already been and found a few more useless phones.
It was 1:15am and I resigned myself to losing this money. I said my thanks and was about to leave when one of the boys reached into his backpack and gave me his cellphone. I told him this would be a long and expensive call (at least 15 minutes at about 25 baht/minute). He shrugged and said to go ahead.
It was now about 1:40 when I finished the call. The guys stood about 10 feet away patiently waiting for me to finish. I opened my wallet and took a 500 baht note from it. I figured that this is about what the telephone call cost and I wanted to compensate the boy for his generosity in lending a farang his phone. As I offered the money, the boy motioned with his hands to push it away…the other two boys exclaimed at the size of the bill, I guess. They-refused-the-money. I was quite taken back. I explained to them that what they did allowed me to make a large sum of money and I was only really just paying for the phone call … reluctantly they took the money, I guess I bought beer for them for the week (grin) …. we waved good-bye and I never saw them again.
I will never forget that night. I tried to imagine how a person of a totally different culture would be treated by 18-19 year olds in my country, at midnight in the same situation. Would they help him in the first place? Would they offer the use of their cellphone? Would they refuse the money offered as payment for their help? Somehow I don't think so or maybe I was just lucky in my case. I don't think so since there were other acts of random kindness I could talk about…maybe another time.
The contrasts of Thailand are never ending. There are some seriously nice, helpful people here…and some seriously nasty folks too. It's nice to hear the positive for a change!