“Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see” Mark Twain.
There are so many positive character traits to encourage and admire but I value kindness above them all. Inspired by World Kindness Day, I thought I'd jot a few things down. Today is a prompt and a reminder to go out of your way to be extra kind for one day and see where it leads.
Kindness is key
I genuinely believe this! Every day on the school run I remind my children “try to use kind words and kind hands”. It's a simple approach but they live it and I love that. If they're being kind other good things will come from that. They can build relationships with other kids - learning to share, take turns and play nicely. I think it will also help them learn. It is kind is to listen to someone when they speak and pay attention to what they're saying. Their teachers and friends and hopefully us parents too will benefit.
Why be kind?
I've typed this but perhaps the question is why be unkind? I can’t see any reason to be actively unkind. I’m no saint, I get it wrong, but I do try to be kind. If you need a reason and evidence, check out this short report about the scientific benefits of being kind. Increased production of the love hormone Oxytocin and happy hormone Serotonin come from being kind or witnessing kindness.
In everyday life I experience kindness mainly in small gestures. I’m the person in the play park who chats to the slightly awkward or loud parent everyone else avoids. I think it's good to include people. I like to say “you go first” where the person behind me in the loo queue has a child clearly desperate to go or “you can have my seat” on the bus or train. The kindness could be holding a door open, popping in on a friend who needs a chat and a hug or just smiling and ackowledging somebody. My best friend and I have a code for kindness, it's a bar of chocolate through the letterbox when she or I need it. These are simple, tiny acts but they mean a lot.
Who are you doing it for?
I try not to think about the why or the who. The motivation to be kind comes from wanting others to feel good or wanting to make their experience easier or better. I'm not kind because I hope someone is kind back (though that would of course be lovely). I do it for the sake of it. I would rather people were kind to me but my showing kindness isn't dependent on that. It costs me nothing to be kind,
Whatever the situation, the background, context, or possible outcome, it's always, always good to be kind. Not even being kind to an unkind person can be bad right? Sometimes you risk it being it thrown back in your face but at least you can look yourself in the proverbial mirror and be ok with what you see. It shouldn't be about being self righteous or self-serving but you cannot deny the self-boosting benefits of kindness. Being kind is good for you too.
If you’re kind to those you encounter, it may not be immediate, but your kindness will definitely have an effect on you and others around you. Take the act of letting someone out of junction. Sometimes they’re irritatingly slow to pull out and you huff and sigh, sometimes they don’t flash or wave to say thank-you (annoying and not very kind). The person you let has benefitted. They can’t return the kindness to you but they might pass it on and let someone else out later on their journey. You get nothing out of this kindness directly but you feel good anyway. If a small act does this, think about what collective or big acts can do!
It’s not always easy
Teaching my children to be kind when another not so nice kid is mean or kicks them is pretty hard. You hear the "push him back" spiel from some parents but I can't give that advice. I am that mother who, much to the embarrassment of my friends, will go wading into a ball pit or soft play and announce “I hope everyone is being kind in here”. The idea is my tone alone will call an end to any meanness. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t and sometimes the parents appear and remove their child slightly embarrassed. Either way, I’ve not been unkind and the unkindness stops. My children know I will intervene if people are being mean and I hope before long they will be able to do it by themselves. In the meantime, they aren’t embarrassed by me, yet!
Sometimes being kind can be deemed offensive. What if you try to help someone and you misjudge it? The person just does not need it. What do you do - avoid offering help to everyone? I'd rather get it wrong once or twice and genuinely apologise rather than not offer to help on the off chance.
Teach it, please!
I wish all parents would teach kindness (or at the very least be aware when their kids are being unkind). My children have their moments of misbehaving, pushing boundaries to near breaking, being downright pains in my backside etc. but as a general rule they aren't unkind. Our school has a strong ethos of teaching kindness so we are really fortunate - we really notice how this creates an incredible environment for all the children.
It's a fine line, I don't think "being kind" should be forced on kids - they have to freely choose to do it. If they understand the benefits hopefully it will be something they embrace. My kids will no doubt do silly things and make daft choices they regret (we've all been there). If kindness is their benchmark for judging whether they should do or say something, I will be happy. My plan is to teach the value of kindness so that they hopefully grow into kind adults - we need more of those.
The big stuff
There are undoubtedly lots of people who would benefit hugely from acts of kindness and help. Solutions to problems, however large or small, often start with a kind thought. The rest follows on - an idea, research, support, funding, actual physical help. Even if you can't be "boots on the ground", you can get involved by being kind. Give a small donation, give a monthly donation if you can. Volunteer, even just once. It doesn't matter how but do something. Find someone or something to help, start by being kind and see where it goes. We've heard of "random acts of kindness" and "paying it forward" - make them more than sayings. It's so worthwhile!
Don’t forget about you
“Be kind to yourself” is something I often say to friends. People are too hard on themselves; they do themselves down and are so judgmental of themselves. It might be a serious effort to be kind to yourself but it can be really simple. Take time, go outside, surround yourself with people who love you. I think if you can afford it to yourself you'll be even better placed to get on with every day things and more able to be kind to others too.
If more people were kind the world would be a better place. Call me naive but I think it’s true. I’m prepared to do my bit toward that end – my kids are where I start and I try to put my words into practice too. My acts of kindness are something I'd rather keep to myself. I'm not comfortable talking about how kind or generous I have been or what I've done for others - sometimes it doesn't feel like enough and other times it feels so braggy. I don't do it for any reason other than because I believe in it. Whatever our age, we can all use kind words and hands and listening ears and by doing so each make a little difference to others around us.
Is there an act of kindness that really touched you? Do you have ideas for random acts of kindness others could try? Let me know.
If you want to find a people who are being kind “just because”, check out these fantastic groups and movements.
- Find like minded folk - Proper Post - the 5 day mini challenge of #30daysofkind starts today! Great ideas for spreading kindness
- Kindness UK celebrates Kindness Day UK today!
- Become a RAKTIVIST - Random Acts of Kindness - find out about spreading kindness in schools, communities and around the world!
- Do your bit - Spread Kindness - this American based due are doing their bit to make the world a kinder place.
- Support a cause - Smith Webb - #bekind and charity support all in one place.