In a world where lies, deceit, thuggery and manipulation can so often seem to hold sway, it is easy to forget, perhaps, that the majority of people are fundamentally kind. After all, being kind is an essential part of what it is to be human as well as all those less savoury aspects that make up our protean selves. Surely, what sets kindness apart is that it is contagious. It realises endorphins; in short, it makes us feel good. The effect on the person committing the act of kindness and the person on the receiving end is one of mutual happiness. I was made aware of this a couple of weeks back, when I was RAK’D (someone who has been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness). A random member of public gave me the remainder of their unused parking ticket just as I was about to slip some coins into the machine. It was completely unexpected, so simple, so generous, so unexpected, yet it left a glow in my heart. Naturally, this episode got me thinking about the nature of kindness.
Is kindness a conscious or unconscious act? I would argue that it is a mixture of both. Unconsciously, we are kind to those whom we care most deeply about: family, friends, lovers, close acquaintances etc. Maybe the greater feat is directing kindness to those whom we have less affiliation with, i.e. strangers, distant relatives, people/colleagues who might pass in and out of our lives and those whom we struggle to connect with. When I was Rak’d it was impossible not to spread the circle of kindness; the tug was irresistible, almost as if I was now part of a subliminal chain reaction, in which I had to play a part.
My small gesture was sending a book to a dear old friend of mine who had been going through a rough time, hoping that it might be a beacon of joy to light up the well of darkness that was engulfing his being at the time. Giving books, I have always thought, is an act of wondrous benevolence, which is also why I was thrilled to be part of this year’s World Book Night, handing out books to strangers. It was a joy to hear from my friend that this gesture had lit up his day. Who knows, maybe he will bear the torch of kindness and extend the circle of goodwill?
Kindness breeds kindness, that I am sure of. Yes, we do live in a benighted world at times but kindness is to the mind, what dancing is to the body, uplifting. We love surprises, especially if they are pleasant, and to perform an act of kindness, no matter how big or how small, is lovely. After all, unless cryogenics is your thing, we aren’t around on this sweet earth for that long a time. All things considered, why not embrace kindness as a way of life. It’s great.
“Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.” (George Sand)
“We should be careful of each other, we should be kind while there is still time” (from The Mower by Philip Larkin)
“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom” (Theodore Rubin)
“that best portion of a good man’s life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love” (William Wordsworth)
“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” (Albert Schweitzer)