Jamie Boylan-O’Rourke on the nice things in life, and why they really do matter
Last week a truly awful and soul destroying thing happened to me.
It was the kind of soul destroying that makes you feel a bit like wanting to hibernate for a very, very long time. It’s a bit of a bizarre tale, so let me explain. It has a nice ending though, this is going to end in anything but doom and gloom, I swear.
To set the scene, my day was an absolutely horrific one, including hits such as an abysmal grade on an essay I slaved over, and the climax of a really stupid passive aggressive argument. So, I was walking to the gym, heading through Camden, and then the next tragedy strikes. My whole wallet of cards, varying from my debit cards and ID, to my gallery passes, disappears from my pocket. As an Art Historian, you can guess that I was destroyed over that missing National Art Pass. Whether the wallet was stolen, or if I was just an idiot who dropped their student life support on the ground in Mornington Crescent, well that’s completely debatable. Needless to say, I wasn’t a happy bunny. This was the cherry on the cake. The epitome of a bad, bad day.
After one of my best friends saved my sorry soul by giving me some cash and a loaded Oyster, I made my way home. And oh boy, that was some journey. Whilst on the phone to my mum, I had an almighty realisation of what had just happened. I began to cry. And cry. Spluttering-can’t-talk-or-breathe style crying. On the 29 bus going through Holloway. Some hysterical lines such as “how am I going to survive without my student Oyster?!” were sobbed down the speaker. Tragic.
As the bus drove down the Harringay Green Lanes, something truly magical happened. A man, a total stranger may I add, placed a note (along with a pound coin) on the seat next to me. It read as follows:
I’m sorry you’re upset. Some days things are not great but there’s always tomorrow and there’s always chocolate please buy some it might help!
He ran off the bus before I even realised what had happened, and before I could say anything to him. I wish I could have, because it was truly the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, and it’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.
I asked some people about random acts of kindness that they have done for others and others have done for them, and whether at the end of the day, do these things matter?
Molly Smith, first year Philosophy student, University of Roehampton
I think I need to do more random nice things… But in my old friendship group [from school], I used to take little presents to our group meet ups like a pound coin and some stickers and some mix CD’s or something for everyone. I actually used to do that quite often. I think random acts of kindness can make or break a day, especially in London where everyone’s always going somewhere or doing something and everyone’s scowling in the bad weather.
Charlie Barker, second year Biochemistry student, UCL
I recently lost my phone in Russell Square. Some old Irish builder found it and got in contact with me… That was the nicest thing anyone has done for me. I also once lodged two lovers high on MDMA whilst I was not even high, when I was living in Max Rayne [last year]. They had just come out of a hot tub and it was winter, and I lived close and they even pointed out that I lived close. It was a nice act even if it wasn’t voluntary… And yes, of course [random acts of kindness] bloody matter!
Hannah Watkins, Health Psychology MSc, UWE
I think the nicest thing anyone’s ever down for me is a collection of small things rather than one big one. Like kids [when I worked at a Summer Camp in Colorado] telling me I was their favourite counsellor, the time [my best friend] Yana brought me pick n’ mix back from the cinema when I couldn’t go out myself that night, and when you always take the time to come and see me on my birthday even though it’s Christmas Day!* Lots of little things like that. I think the nicest thing I’ve done is probably always give friends a place to stay when they need it and want to get away for a while. And yes, I think acts of kindness do make the world feel a better place! We’re not all robots!
*If you were wondering, it’s a tradition for me to see Hannah on her birthday on Christmas Day, and I’ve been doing it for years…
Miriam Brooks, second year Anthropology student, UCL
I can’t remember when people have done nice things for me apart from arbitrary things like bus drivers letting me on with no money, but when a friend of mine was feeling really down at school [during an art exam] I left the building to go to the shop, and I bought her some chocolate and an Orangina because she loved Orangina, and a newspaper because she loves crosswords. [I] brought it to her for comfort food and distraction, so she didn’t have to talk to anyone in lunch. That was pretty nice of me, I think. And yeah, obviously [these things matter as they] can make someone’s day.
Everyone knows that being kind, and just being a good person in general is important. It’s one of those no brainer things, but it’s so easy, especially in London, to get swept away with life. It really is the little things that count in life and it’s these things, especially on those really tough crappy days, that can make a world of a difference.
And if you were wondering, the chocolate really did cheer me up.
Featured image credit: Jamie Boylan-O’Rourke