Why Grandad Ron’s wave got him into trouble with his granddaughter

Giving back to society starts with the simplest of gestures, but with a little thought can develop into something much more than that, as Grandad Ron tries to explain to his granddaughter.

“That’s not fair; Daddy tells me I mustn’t do that,” Alice chided her grandfather. “Why are you allowed do it?”

Looking into his driving mirror at his granddaughter in her child seat in the back, Grandad Ron asked: “What does he tell you you’re not to do?”

“Wave at people I don’t know. You just waved at the man in that lorry,” she pointed out innocently. “Daddy says you shouldn’t.”

The question made Ron stop to think. His son was right to make his daughter careful near strangers, but it was also right to offer, and acknowledge, random acts of kindness, like being allowed to move into a lane of traffic, or to accept gifts from strangers, in the right circumstances. He thought about a Twitter thread he’d been reading about members of the public buying drinks and sandwiches for on-duty police officers and paramedics, and about the company which had hidden envelopes containing a little money and a thank you letter for its employees to find whilst they were working. It had been Random Act of Kindness Day the weekend before, which was an initiative Ron wholeheartedly supported.

“Well,” he began, choosing his words carefully. “we always say ‘thank you’ when someone has done something for us, don’t we?” Alice nodded. “The man in the lorry let me drive in front of him, but it’s hard to say thank you from inside a car, so I waved to him instead. It was just a way of saying thank you; a way of giving something back because he’d been kind.”

Alice wasn’t to be dissuaded. “But why am I not allowed to do it?”

“Well, you weren’t driving that car, and I was,” said Ron, a quietly proud of himself for having talked himself out of explaining the little girl’s moral dilemma. She thought about it a little more, but before she was able to ask another question, Ron ploughed on. “There’s no reason for people to be unkind to each other. Little children like you usually aren’t; it’s something that seems to get into us as we get older. I wish it wouldn’t. We can all help each other at some time or other; even by donating something to others because of what they do for us, to make them feel appreciated, or to help them with something they can’t do for themselves.

“They don’t have to even be in this country. Your dad manages his company’s money with an app…”

“…on his phone? I know about apps…” said Alice.

“…yes, on his phone; it’s called ExpenseOnDemand, and the people who made it give money to good causes out of the profits they make. It helps people in other countries who don’t have as much as we do, and it makes their lives better,” he explained. “And they give money to help clean up the sea, too.”

Alice looked out of the window, pondering what he’s said. “What, like the plastic that people throw into the sea? We talked about that before, didn’t we, Grandad?”

Surprised that she’d remembered their conversation, Ron smiled and said: “That’s right, we did. So, you know how important it is to look after what we have, and to help people who haven’t got as much as us or remember that everyone has a right to have people be friendly to them, or even not to throw litter. The trouble is, people so often don’t think about how they can be change makers for others; they’re too wrapped up in their own bubbles to notice what’s going on around them.”

After another brief silence, Alice asked: “Grandad, are you in a bubble? When we go home we normally go down the road near Abbie’s house, and you’ve just driven past it…”