Thursday, May 27, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

Rode to Copacabana on the bus today.  The bus is always an experience here but I'm pleased to say that it's getting a lot easier to navigate my way around the city.  I'm no longer feeling that terrifying pang when I go somewhere alone knowing I will probably need to ask for directions.  I think I've mentioned this kind of thing a few times in a few different blogs but I'm sorry, it just never ceases to amaze me how much more I understand and how much easier things are getting.  Maybe not easy, but definitely easier.  

I witnessed something really interesting that I haven't yet seen on any other bus ride.  A simple gesture of kindness which was kind of suspicious to me, to be honest.  I was standing on the bus which was getting slightly crowded.  As more and more people started piling on, I moved further towards the back to make some room.  As I was standing there, juggling my belongings, the woman sitting (below? next to?) me asked in Portuguese "Quer sentar sua bolsa aqui?"  I looked at her initially hearing only the verb "to sit" thinking she was offering her seat or another seat.  But seeing the confused look on my face she asked again.

"Quer sentar sua bolsa? (pointing at my purse)  Posso guardar aqui."

Wellll.... my suspicions were on high as she physically, but gently, guided my purse to her lap.  I mean, by that point I understood she was asking me if I wanted to keep my purse on her lap but seeing as I had NEVER seen this happen on the bus before (definitely wouldn't happen at home) I obliged her offer but kept hold of the strap.  Y'know... it's just strange when a stranger offers to hold your purse... not your typical act of kindness and I'm sure you understand why I was feeling a bit leery.  I kept an eye on my bag the whole time but the lady didn't even appear interested in it.  She just looked out the window and literally let my bag 'sit'.  
As soon as a seat opened up I thanked her and went to sit down, still considering the motive behind this good deed. 
It wasn't until I was on my way home, again on another crowded bus, that I witnessed it happen again!  A lady standing on the bus was fumbling with her things and as she was getting bumped around by everyone the lady sitting next to me offered to hold HER bag on her lap!  The Standing Lady was totally grateful and practically threw her purse onto the Sitting Lady's lap.  There the bag stayed until a seat opened and the Standing Lady could retrieve it and resume the ride sitting down.

What an interesting gesture.  I'm sorry to say that I am immediately so suspicious of people here.  I do consider myself to be a pretty naive person, wanting to believe that all people are good or at least have good intentions.  I've just been a bit conditioned to think that most people here are looking for opportunities to rob you and if you give them any, it's your own fault.  True to a point, but today helped me see another side of Brazilians - Carioca's specifically - and that is that strangers still look out for one another.  I don't see many Random Acts of Kindness here... not like at home at least, but any time I do, no matter which country I am in, I always feel a little warm feeling inside!  ****Cheese Alert, Cheese Alert***
But seriously, doesn't it feel so awesome to help another person out when they least expect it and to see it being paid forward as well?  There are so few of these incidents now that it really surprises me when they happen.  But, gives you a little bit more faith in humanity.....


  1. I absolutely LOVE this act of kindness common on the bus. And now that I feel more comfortable with the language I have offered to hold others' bags as well. I was on a bus in the country some years back when it stopped at a school and filled with teenages. All the kids standing piled their backpacks on the laps of all the kids sitting. It was automatic. No questions asked - they kept about their screaming and smiling.

    Another thing you will never see on a bus 'back home' is little kids (really little) getting picked up by strangers to sit on their laps if their mom is overwhelmed or they need more room. It is a warm sight to see.

    Feel the love.

  2. Great post! Yeah, I noticed that too on the buses, and at first was a bit confused, but soon realized that it's pretty typical! And it really is a nice gesture, but I totally understand why you would be skeptical, and it's probably good that you were, because Brazil really does keep you on your toes!

  3. The purse always gets a good seat in Brazil - ever noticed the hooks under the tables in restaurants and sometimes they even have little coatrack-like things for the purses. It must never touch the floor or, apparently, be jostled on the bus!

  4. good you are following your instincts. it is a nice act of kindness, but always be cautious.


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