Better at critical thinking, worse at being kind?

I was walking to the Academy building through one of the busy streets of Groningen. In front of me, I saw a girl with a big school bag walking in the same direction, perhaps a fellow UG student. Suddenly, she stopped, pulled a few bright yellow bananas out of her bag, and handed them to a homeless man who was sitting on the ground. He thanked her briefly, and she continued her walk. How effortless and kind, I thought. 

I was talking about rough Dutch weather with a friend. We complained to each other how both of us got soaking wet from head to toe the other day. She said that she realized for the first time how homeless people might feel perpetually, but without a chance to get home, change and get a warm cup of soup. How compassionate, I thought. 

I was checking my messages when I stumbled across a link to a documentary nominated for the best Groninger film 2023 made by a colleague about homeless people in Groningen. How great that some people talk, care, and do things about that, I thought. 

Happening in one day, all those events made me surprised at how much homelessness is not on my agenda. How easy it became to brush it off emotionlessly. How much I normalized the rational way of thinking about it.

I was surprised at how much homelessness is not on my agenda; how easy it became to brush it off emotionlessly

It scared me. Did my surroundings change my focus? Did other problems overpower basic human compassion? Did I become unkind? Those thoughts occupied my head for a few days. 

In searching for answers, I spoke to some friends. Some said bigger institutions such as municipalities, corporations, or universities should care more about the homeless. Some said that we cannot possibly be responsible for every person’s actions. Some said that they would love to help, but wondered how, if they don’t have the financial means themselves. 

We all got better at critical thinking. But did we get worse at being kind? 

Of course, you cannot base a curriculum on it. Of course, it is every person’s responsibility. Of course, those things should not be forced upon anyone. But we, young and unsupervised students, sometimes could use some guidance in what to do with our time and energy between exams, friends, and love interests. 

Maybe, if humanitarian volunteering on campus would exist not only when a crisis bursts out, but daily, with our time and energy, it would become not a surprise but a habit to help. A habit that would benefit everyone. 

Meanwhile, it is not my habit yet, and I have to develop it on my own. I will go and buy some bananas to keep in my bag, just in case.


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