Dubai-based Shimi Shah was waiting in line at a supermarket check-out when she saw a construction worker – in his overalls – in front of her fumbling with a handful of coins and some notes to pay for the items in his basket. It was obvious he didn’t have enough money for the few things he’d chosen – a packet of crisps, apples, milk and a few packs of fruit juice. He was on the verge of putting some back, staring at the crisps that would surely have to go. Instinctively, she moved forward, telling him to keep them. “I paid for his groceries almost like a reflex action,’’ says Shimi, director of Carousel Solutions, a business consultancy firm.

The reason? She is a big fan of the Pay It Forward movement that took off from Catherine Ryan Hyde’s best-seller of the same name, which also spawned the Hollywood hit starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. Shimi was so taken with the concept of doing little acts of kindness which may inspire the recipients to pass on the acts to others, that she’s hoping to spread the movement in the UAE. The look of surprise on the man’s face turned to delight as he tried to thank Shimi. “It cost me less than Dh100, but more than the money, it was lovely to see the effect my act had on him,” she says.

“It gave me tremendous satisfaction that I was doing something directly for a person rather than giving to a charity where a chunk of it would likely go towards costs for paying incidental expenditures of the organisation.” Shimi explained to the man why she’d paid for his shopping, and what she hoped would come out of it. “I told him I didn’t expect him to do the same, but that if he could help anybody in any way, that would be enough,” she says. “He was immensely relieved and grateful, and promised me he’d pass on the act of kindness. I am sure he has already.”

Can we resolve to be like Shimi today? Did you notice the colleague who has not gone out for lunch break for some days now? He might not be on a fast. How about your domestic workers? Do you go out of your way to try to see how you can kindly impact on their lives away from their wages which can barely take care of their basics? Can you offer to pay their kids fee for a term? Or let their kid spend one midterm break with you and feel what life is like on the other side? If you think deep, you will see ways to show little acts of kindness like Shimi. Remember, while it may be little to you, the recipient of such acts might remember for the rest of their lives.

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