I believe the majority of people are intrinsically kind. In the last little while I have been gifted a box of mangoes by a stranger who didn’t want to see them wasted. A young man helped me get baby E’s pram up a long flight of stairs (so grateful). I rang a government call centre, expecting to be frustrated, and was instead assisted by the most lovely and helpful lady.
I have been the beneficiary of kindness from strangers and my beautiful friends and family. I think most of us experience these kindnesses, if we stop to think about it. I think most of us give out kindness, without stopping to think about it. But sometimes we do think about it. We think too much about it and we get in the way of our own good intentions.
When my middle son died, I was so touched by the kindness shown to our family. Beautiful gestures by complete strangers and loved ones alike. Gifts and tokens and words that still mean the world to me. Then there were those that wanted to extend kindness and understanding but faltered. They didn’t want to send a card for fear it would upset me. They hesitated to do things for Xavier, anxious there were over-stepping an invisible boundary. They started phone calls, emails and letters but never finished them because they over-thought the action.
I understand and I can relate. Before I lost my middle son, I would often dream up a random act of kindness, go so far as to make the gift or order the flowers, only to second-guess myself. Was I over-stepping? Would the gift be perceived as a strange act? Would the recipient think I was presupposing a depth of relationship that didn’t exist? Would it be all a little weird really?
I have never thought any of those things when someone has been kind to me. Yet, I was moved to paralysis, surrendering my act of kindness to unfounded fears. I don’t do this anymore. If I feel like doing something nice for someone, I just do it. I don’t over-think it and I don’t expect anything back. There is a temptation to keep a mental tally of favours and kindnesses. To expect an evenly tipped scale. But I don’t think this is true kindness – the expectation of something in return. Kindness is something to set free, and if it comes back to you, then that’s beautiful but if not, that’s okay too. The act itself has its own beauty and reward.
When next you dream up a kindness, just do it. If you suspect your friend needs a pick me up, just text them something lovely. If you see someone struggling with their shopping bags or their stroller – offer help – it will most likely be gratefully received. If a child is crying, comfort them. In these politically correct yet socially isolating times, that seems like a nearly revolutionary act – to simply extend compassion to a child.