It is such a simple thing – kindness. And such a powerful thing. But there is so little of it about. Think on this: are you a kind person? Could you do better?
As we look around our world kindness and compassion seem to be in short supply. The news and FB feeds are full of cruelty to homeless people, refugees, animals, each other: stories of rape and war, death and casual indifference to suffering (especially you, Tony Abbott and David Cameron). Perhaps in this increasingly divided world where the rich and powerful and violent are increasingly holding sway it is time for the rest of us, the majority of us, to proceed in kindness, to see if we can make a difference.
Kindness to strangers
Why not drop a coin or two in the homeless person’s cup – why not take the time to say hello to them? Don’t assume they are so very different to you.
Stand up for someone on the train, tube or bus. Let someone go in front of you in the queue in the supermarket, let someone else have the better parking space. Open the door for someone.
Smile at random strangers for no reason. Pay someone a compliment if there is something about them that you find pleasing. I can tell you when people tell me they love my hair it makes me smile and feel better about the world.
Say thank you to the bus driver, the shop assistant – they may be doing their job but it’s a nice to show some appreciation.
Remember, you don’t know what their lives are like, a random act of kindness may make all the difference to them.
Kindness to colleagues
We spend a great deal of our lives at work, often years with other people, more time with them than our families it seems. So surely it’s not so hard to be pleasant, to be thoughtful and considerate in the work-place? Yet increasingly it’s become an adversarial environment, more like Game of Thrones, where it’s every man/woman for him/herself, with increasing levels of treachery and cunning. Where did this culture come from? Why are so many people only out for themselves, or wanting to cut others down?
I find it amazing in my profession, where we are meant to care for the kids, that so many up the food chain, patently do not. They say they do, but in the way they treat colleagues and manage matters it is clear that they have no care or compassion for anyone, so what are they doing in Education?
I won’t even mention the current Education Secretary, who is another in a long line of idiots who persistently crap on teachers, instead of praising and appreciating the dedication of most of us.
Why are so many teachers dropping from stress? Why do so many young graduates not stay in the profession? Because it is not a kind profession, because compassion and caring for your team, your colleagues, is not seen as the way forward. Because if you falter, fail in any way, you are seen as weak – you are the problem and you must go.
In fact, if you are working in such a place then you should go – find a place where management care about their team, their staff and you will feel valued and perform so much better and won’t that be the best thing for the kids, or the clients, or the business you work for?
Kindness to family & friends
This should be so obvious I need not mention it. But recent events remind me that we are often more careless with those closest to us. Kindness is not a given in family or with friends.
Being close means we see each other’s faults and over time and during intense events – such as holidays or weddings, funerals or moving across the world – we see the faults more clearly and sometimes we react badly. Sometimes we expect too much from others. Sometimes we need to think about what we are doing in a relationship – what does this friendship mean; why is this family member so important to me?
Patience is an essential part of kindness and is crucial in close relationships, as is forgiveness. People are foolish (as a wise child once told their granddad) and say and do foolish things. They are also thoughtless. But if we react in the same way, especially when we know better, how does that help anyone?
Kindness to animals (and other desperate creatures)
I do not want to see pictures of damaged and brutalized animals on my FB feed. I care not that many of these stories end well, I am upset by these images. Yes, like many, these pictures have a greater impact on me than boatloads of desperate refugees. I am aghast at what is happening to refugees and could not imagine the horrors of their plight but there is something about dumb animals, creatures that are dependent on us to look after them and do the right thing that cuts to the heart.
I loved Zanz (my GSD) with all my heart. I do not understand why anyone would knowingly and wantonly be cruel to an animal. It seems indicative of a much larger problem in our society, where cruelty, not kindness rules the planet.
It’s simple – don’t have an animal if you are not going to treat it correctly. And if you come across strays or animals suffering then don’t ignore them. You could even rescue a puppy yourself.
Kindness to yourself
Not last because it is least, but because this is important. Kindness comes from feeling strong yourself, from feeling good about who you are and your place in the world. Kindness to yourself recognizes your own humanity, your own infinite ability to fuck things up, but to let it go, forgive yourself. You cannot be kind to others, if you cannot be kind to yourself.
Kindness is about forgiveness, about recognizing that the world is a harsh and often brutal place, but we don’t have to embrace that. Kindness should be the new black, the new cool. Kindness to others makes them feel better and you know what, it makes you feel better too. It’s a simple thing but oh, so effective.
As Glen Campbell told us years ago –
You got to try a little kindness, yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets