Random Acts of Kindness

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Petit Taxi—driver is allowed to carry 3 passengers

The first week we were in Fes this trip Denise passed along a little kindness, and in return, we received some affirmation. The second week we found ourselves to be recipients of an act of kindness, and this week we experienced an even larger dose, convincing us that kindness given often begets kindness received.

The kindness Denise extended pales somewhat in comparison to our gift, but it was indicative of Denise’s normal modus operandi, and deserving of description. We were in a taxi in route to the central part of town, when the other passenger in the taxi arrived at his destination and the driver stopped to let him out. A discussion ensued as the passenger had only a large bill and the driver said he had no change.

Such a situation is quite common here. Regardless of the type of commercial transaction that takes place the provider of the service never has any change, or at least never has any they want to give up. Taxi drivers, fruit vendors, shop owners, drugstore clerks, restaurant cashiers, it doesn’t matter. Apparently it is much easier for the buyer, rather than the seller, to have the appropriate amount of money.

Overhearing the discussion between the passenger and the driver, Denise asked, in Arabic, if he needed some change. The passenger had heard us talking to each other, in English of course, and he immediately turned and asked, “Are you English”? She replied that we were Americans and his response was, “You are very nice people.” Not a comment we hear every day.

A conversation ensued for a couple of minutes, him relating that he had lived in Great Britain for about three years, and Denise gave the short version of our history in Fes. She did have adequate change so that their transaction could be completed, and we did not have to wait while a search was made in the stores located nearby for someone willing to give up some of their available “serf.” Denise’s willingness to offer assistance resulted in a stranger coming to a conclusion with which we agree; for the most part, in our better moments, we are “nice” people.

Wednesday of last week we decided to take our lunch at a little more upscale restaurant than we normally visit at lunch. We had been there only once in the past, about three years ago.

We were quite surprised as we made our way inside to hear quite plainly, “Dr. Kelley, Denise.” Turning in that direction we saw one of my former students, a native of Fes, who participated in our International House program at JSU from 2001 – 2003 and by 2007 had earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science. He now lives and works in Atlanta and works for Ericsson Corporation, a Swedish company. His name is Mohamed, but we always called him “Simo”, a diminutive form of Sidi Mohamed, or Mister Mohamed.

We were delighted to see him, but also to meet his wife, Asmaa, a native of Casablanca that Simo met in Atlanta. They have been married about three years and have a nineteen month old daughter, Lilya. We visited for a couple of hours while Denise and I had our lunch and Asmaa “worked” some for the software company where she is employed, using her laptop and the wi-fi provided at the restaurant.

In 2006, Simo happened to be in Fes during spring vacation when we traveled with a group to Morocco and he sort of served as our travel guide. We enjoyed catching up on the news with them while we ate, getting acquainted with Asmaa and Lillia, and planning when one or the other of us would make the trip between Birmingham and Atlanta in order to continue and maintain our friendship. When we had to leave, Simo insisted that he be allowed to pay for our meal and then took us back to our apartment in his rental car. We appreciated these two kindnesses extended to us as a result of the random meeting that occurred.

That event did not mark the completion of the kind hospitality we felt from the Lahlou family. Simo’s mother relayed an invitation to us later in the week that it was imperative that we visit in her home. Those who traveled with us in ’06 might remember the special meal we enjoyed in Aicha’s home. Three days ago we again sensed a special effort made in our behalf, almost of being undeserving of such kindness. We had a remarkable meal, as the pictures attest, complete with mint tea and pastries. Needless to say, we departed with profound gratitude for being accepted in their home with such lavish affection.

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I suppose that Denise’s kindness did not insure that we would have a greater kindness extended to us. The goes around, comes around theory. I did refer to these as random acts. However, our cross-cultural experience here in Fes argues that kindness is a value that is invaluable in helping to create and maintain meaningful relationships. And, quite often the result is as we experienced, beneficial as well.


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