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There’s no doubt about it, the news has been completely soul-destroying lately; a string of atrocities and disasters in our beautiful country. We’ve had so many one-minute silences we might wonder if one day we’ll run out of minutes… it would be easy to believe that times have changed and humans have changed; that we now live in a divided and dangerous world, and we should just resign ourselves to it. From a young age, we’re taught to be kind – to our teachers, our friends, our families. It’s easy to be kind to the people we’re close to, but surely every person is a potential friend once you actually get to know them? Despite what we see in the media, maybe we’re really all the same?
Everyone around us is fighting their own personal battles and just trying to do their best in the world. We all love our families, try our best to provide for them and have a laugh along the way. But how often do we judge someone when they’re off with us, whilst then letting ourselves off when we snap at a stranger because we’re full of cold or the car park meter’s run out? And why is it also so hard just to be kind to ourselves sometimes?
In the year 2000, a brilliant film came out called “Pay It Forward”. In it, a 12-year-old boy called Trevor undertakes a class assignment where he does a favour for three people, on the condition that they pay the favour forward by carrying out good deeds for three more people and so on; a tree of good deeds. The idea is that if everyone does something kind, and it’s repaid in kindness, the cycle continues and we become better people. What a wonderful idea and such a positive one too!
Maybe it’s just a case of looking for it. After all, kindness can show itself in the smallest and most subtle of ways; helping an elderly lady across the road because she reminds you of your own dear mother or grandmother, even though you’re already late to pick the kids up from school. Offering to buy a cup of coffee for the man who often sits in the park on his own feeding the pigeons, just because you know what lonely can feel like.
Then we think about the heroes of the last few weeks. The homeless man who ran into the concert hall in Manchester to help those who were injured by a suicide bomber; the brave souls who carried vulnerable neighbours down flight after flight of stairs in the dark ferocious heat of the Grenfell Tower inferno. They were kind, selfless and driven by an instant inner strength we all hope we possess but which may never actually be tested. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if it didn’t take catastrophic events like these before such deep kindness is celebrated? If we could appreciate kindness all around us every day?
Being kind is more than just being nice. It’s felt from within; it’s spiritual. It’s about really feeling something and being able to truly empathise, often in the darkest of moments.
Sadly, we do live in a divided and difficult world and it would be easy to believe there’s nothing we can do about it. But if we all made a conscious effort to appreciate kindness in others, and in turn “pay it forward”, things might just get better.
After all, what goes around comes around…