My friend Sara said yesterday that I seem to mention kindness a lot in my blogs. She’s right. I’ll explain what kindness means to me.
- Kindness is a gift we can each share with other humans, however rich or poor we are. It is remarkable that those with the least material wealth, such as people I know in Pakistan, are often the most generous to strangers as well as family and friends.
- Kindness means listening to another person as they seek meaning, understanding and eventually accommodation in bad things that have happened to them.
- I used to think kindness was about other people. Recently, I’ve learned that to be truly kind to others, one has to start by being kind to oneself. This is harder than it sounds. And it takes a lot of practice.
- Kindness includes going to an event, a leaving do, even a funeral, not because you necessarily want to, but because it would mean a great deal to someone else to have you there.
- Kindness is about reaching out to someone who is lonely, low or appears to be in need of help, and not minding if you are rebuffed.
- Kindness helps you to offer genuine congratulations to someone who has worked hard to achieve something admirable, even if you aren’t feeling great yourself. You may notice that their positive reaction will make you feel warmer and more contented.
- We saw great kindness in Sussex on Saturday, as thousands came to pay their respects to the 11 who died in the Shoreham air crash. By laying flowers on the footbridge, observing a minute’s silence, lighting a little candle or wearing a black armband, people showed love to the bereaved and to one another. Their kindness has made a terrible time feel slightly less terrible.
- I’d like to think that in the UK, we might extend our kindness to the desperate people currently queuing at Calais, being smuggled in containers or risking their lives in tiny boats to cross the Mediterranean. The so-called “migrant” crisis is actually a humanitarian crisis. The people fleeing torture, war and starvation from troubled parts of the world are not “benefit – cheats”. They come from all walks of life. They are doing what any of us would do in similar circumstances. And Great Britain is not really “full-up.” Compared with them, we have great riches, including plenty of room and resources. And if helping makes things a little bit less comfortable for some of us for a while, then so what? If we were in a lifeboat, would we prevent another person from climbing in, just because we liked our own space, and leave them to drown? I hope we wouldn’t.
- In Buddhism, kindness is named explicitly. But as a matter of fact, kindness is the fundamental feature of all world religions, including humanism. The parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, after which Samaritans are named, is about kindness. People who volunteer to help others enrich our world with their kindness.
- There are many people who write about kindness. The blog I’d most recommend is by @johnwalsh88. Here is a link to his latest. And here is the philosophy of the author.
In the 35 years that Sara and I have been friends, she has led by example and taught me a great deal about kindness. Everyone who knows her will understand what I mean. I will be forever grateful to her for this.
This will be my last blog for a while. I’ve a book to finish and blogging, while good practice, is too easy a distraction.
I’ll be back. Meanwhile, let’s put pressure on our government. Let’s no longer feel ashamed of images of drowned people on the shores of seas close to our green and pleasant land.
Here’s to kindness. In the end, it is all that we have to give.