By Justine Lister, writer and blogger at My Crazy Magic Life – My Life. My People. My Work.
My family and I once went on holiday with another family. Two weeks on the continent, all inclusive, all the sunshine, and all the time in the world to laugh, love and laze around. I felt blessed and grateful in every way.
My fellow counterpart, however, clearly did not feel the same.
Now I can understand how anyone can feel down on their luck, jealous, anxious, hard done by, depressed, sad, fed-up, grumpy, and angry. We all have times of hardship and waves of these trying emotions that we must cope with – myself included.
But despite me or anyone else feeling this way, I cannot abide unkindness. This friend (ex-friend now) was unkind for no fathomable reason. I found it uncomfortable being around her and I genuinely felt sad for her that her entire being and reason for living seemed to be wrapped up in an ‘I’m alright Jack’, running everyone down, us first, scathing, judgmental attitude to every given situation and person.
Maybe she had not known enough kindness in her life to know how to be any other way – and if that was the case then that is truly heartbreaking.
During one of her daily uncharitable rants about a colleague back at home, that had dared to cross her path, or wrong her in an insignificant way, I gently prized a word in edgeways and suggested that instead of reacting with such negative emotions, she tried kindness, or tolerance, or asking politely for explanations, or simply not reacting with contempt towards every single event and person that she had decided were insulting to her.
She looked at me with her head tilted in response. I was a bit scared. Her frown burrowed and her eyes squinted. The nose rumpled up in disagreement. ‘Hmmmmm,’ she said, followed by a shake of the head and an affirmative ‘No.’ She just could not comprehend the concept of what I was trying to share with her.
There is a fine line – I can see that. Kindness is often mistaken, or viewed as, weakness. For example, not getting riled up or reacting to a situation can be seen as cowardice to some, whereas letting someone have something that you want before you, could lead to others seeing you as a pushover. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? How kind can you be until you become a doormat?
Being kind does not mean saying yes to everything, or letting anyone treat you badly, or letting yourself go without. Being kind should never be to your detriment or your disservice, but I do think it is one of the easiest and most powerful things that you can offer a fellow human being (alongside a good cup of tea and a hug).
In this crazy world of pandemics, conflict, vitriolic media, trolling and greed, kindness can offer a refreshing counterpoint to our own and others’ reflexive and innate negative knee jerk reactions that are often steeped in negative emotions. Kindness is a gentle antidote for all when life gets too much. It creates connections, calms those animalistic toxic traits, reassures, and provides hope.
It is my true belief that this world and all of us could use a little bit more of this – whether it’s needing to give more, or to receive more.
I have known kindness throughout my life, and I could list forever the kind acts that have been bestowed upon me by friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances and I really hope that I would appear on a few of their act of kindness lists too.
What follows next is in homage to the people who out of nowhere offered me some kindness and I will never forget them despite being a teeny dot on the timeline of my life.
(Embarrassingly many of these involve me falling over?!?!)
Thank you for showing me kindness. You have touched my soul. Thank you to:
The gentleman who helped me push our luggage through transit at Singapore Airport when I was carrying a comatose and jet lagged five-year-old.
The family that paid for my parking when I was called to get to my dying Grandma as soon as possible in hospital.
The two workmen that rescued my cat Buddy from a tree the day before I got married.
The midwife that gave me my own room and did not charge me after I had given birth to my daughter. And more so for telling the loser I was with to go home after he started playing up.
The drunk chap that helped me up when I face planted the bus floor while everyone else was laughing. I should have made a complaint about that driver; he just put his foot down and sent me flying before I got to a seat – sad face with a tear.
The lady who picked up my glasses when they flew off after a fall in Cambridge. Again, too much laughter – my daughter included in this gang of mockery. I landed in a floor-down superman flying pose – I kid you not – in the doorway of subway – looked like I was literally flying in for my teriyaki chicken. The daughter soon stopped laughing when she realised that I would not be making a purchase after my fall. In my head it was a fall akin to a dynamic James Bond style drop and roll, but I was assured it was nothing of the sort. More like an ultra-slow motion stagger n slam. I’m sticking to my vision!
The Karate men that came to my rescue after I fell out of a shopping trolley and dislocated my knee outside an off license. I was 15. It was the first day of the school holidays. The irony being that me and my friend had not even made it into ‘Threshers’ as that was our intended destination. Even more ironic was that I had only got out of the trolley because there was a dangerous looking kerb – I had made it down the underpass unscathed only five minutes earlier.
The Spanish senora who came to my aid after I fell out of the swimming pool in Torremolinos and broke my toe. I blame the hotel serving fizzy wine with breakfast. My family didn’t realise I was in peril for at least twenty minutes after, having a whale of a time at the other end of the pool. I don’t know what this kind lady was saying to me as she attempted to haul me up. However, she looked so kind and sympathetic as I looked up at her mustering up a tearful, pained and Spanish ‘uno momento,’ as she spied my wonky digit.
To the young chap who came and asked me if I was OK and sat with me for the duration of my after-midnight train journey home from London. He clearly saw my panicked look as about a million rowdy and intoxicated football fans joined our carriage, swearing and chanting.
To the poppet of a student who only yesterday bought me a cake to my desk from the charity cake sale just because.
Simple ideas to show kindness: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas
The most amazing charity: https://www.52-lives.org/
*Disclaimer: Although I have spent the past years trying hard to live a life of kind, I am in no way saying that I am or have been a kindness role model my whole life. Even if I did say that my siblings and childhood friends (amongst others) I am sure would be able to tell you otherwise.