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Try A Little Kindness.
You won't regret it.
My daughter arrived home from the supermarket yesterday and she seemed a bit worried about something. It turned out she wanted to know if someone could get her bank number from a receipt.
We wound the story back.
She was in the store and there was a man there who was distressed, saying he didn’t have a way to contact someone. When she paid my daughter purchased some phone credit at the counter and gave the man the details so he could use it. After she gave it to him he addressed her by name, which surprised her.
I said I didn’t think there was a risk that a printout would include information that would give access to her account. And that I was really proud of her. That even if there was a risk of something going wrong, or not as intended, it was the right thing to do to help someone, and how proud of her I was. Leaving the room I had a few tears.
My daughter has achieved some fabulous things so far in her life and while I’m often proud of her I don’t think I’d ever been prouder than that moment. In her part time job, she’s still at high school, she works hard and the money that she gave that man was her pay for an hour of work.
We have our moments, like any parent does with a teenager. I drive her crazy telling her things she already knows, but reminding her because, you know, I’m the parent so that’s the job.
She corrects me on my Te Reo pronunciation and tells me off when I’m impatient and rude. I have a particular dislike of bureaucracy and those who administer it, and there are times when I’m less kind that I ought to be in my interactions with it. But she lets me know.
Small acts of kindness. You always get more from giving them than they cost you. Seeing those same acts of kindness coming from your children, independently and unprompted, that is a whole other level of satisfaction.
The kindness people need varies from person to person, family to family, as my friend Heidi speaks of in this post from yesterday. I’ve included all of it, with her permission.
From the department of grateful children ...
When I was seven years old. My father (British military, special services) came home for the first time in years to tell us he wasn't coming home ever again! My mother had PTSD from her childhood memories in Germany. She was bonkers and from that point on, she was extra bonkers and very pissed off with Daddy. Life was shit! My childhood was similar to that of Sinead O'Connor. Her mother was bonkers too. Read her biography.
Life improved somewhat when my mother met my stepfather. An ex-naval officer (fifteen years her senior) who walked with pride, despite the shrapnel in his legs. He loved my mother. He was on a sickness benefit. We lived together and we were very poor. They both had PTSD. He taught her how to drink, but he was good to me. He put an end to her physical abuse toward me but struggled to keep her mental abuse at bay.
So, you're reading this, and you're thinking, that's seriously fucking shit! Where's the good stuff that you have to be grateful for?
My stepfather, Ronnie, was a rough diamond. He was haunted by the sounds of his screaming buddies during the war, so he drank too much, but he was gentle and kind to me. He was smart and he liked to analyze everything. I was thirteen years old and very impressionable. He taught me how to question everything. We shared the cryptic crossword every day. We watched the news together and he helped me understand politics and war. We would both shout at the telly when Thatcher made an appearance.
One day, I didn't come home on time after school, I was two hours late. I was just thirteen years old. Ronnie was distraught and very angry with me when I arrived home. I had to explain to him, that I had spent time chatting with a homeless man in the park. I know, crazy, right! ...
... I had made friends with the local tramp. He would show up unfailingly on the park bench at the same time every day.
For a few weeks, we shared poetry. His poems were about politics and freedom; mine were too, in a juvenile sort of way. When I told him that my family and I were moving out of the area he looked as though he would cry. “Who will listen to my poems?” he said. I gave him my one and only piece of gold. A small friendship ring which Ronnie had given to me for my birthday. He placed it on his little finger. His eyes lit up and It felt right to me to have given it to him.
When I told Ronnie, his temper dissipated and he hugged me, choking back his tears.
Please, please don't vote for a right-wing party who don't care about people who are struggling. People like my family.
Thank for letting me share that Heidi. 😀
“Kindness has been shown to increase life satisfaction, boost mood, enhance feelings of acceptance and trust, increase longevity in the older population, raise levels of self-esteem, improve the functioning of our immune system and help us feel generally happier.
Simply put, kindness boosts wellbeing, interestingly, in both the receiver and the giver.”
But it isn’t just about the good feeling you get from being kind to someone. Or they get from receiving kindness. Whether you’re helping with a heavy load, or stopping and listening when there is a shortage of kindness in someone’s life.
It’s about the kindness we give, and show, that lives on and spreads. Whether it be Ronnie with what he did for Heidi, or in my case a knowledge that whatever else I do wrong in my life my kids understand the importance of kindness, and they’ll carry that with them and pass it to others.
Some of the coarsest comedians I watch, people who fiercely challenge those in power, raging against the utter lunacy of the inequalities in our society, are often humbled by kindness. Overwhelmed by their feelings in response to the need for kindness and the importance of it.
Of all Jonathan Pie’s pieces it’s not the ones on climate change, or Brexit, or even Tory lies that have stuck with me, it’s this one:
You don’t regret the kindness that you give. But if you’re like me you regret the times when you weren’t kind.
The time you spoke rudely to someone in a shop because you were in a bad mood, even though whatever you were grumpy about probably had nothing to do with them. Those times when you didn’t give someone the benefit of the doubt, because you thought there was a chance their intentions were bad.
Sure there will be times your kindness will miss the mark. The charity you give that ends up at the liquor store. That money your friend doesn’t pay back - oh come on, you didn’t really think that was a loan, did you?
I once managed to give my house keys to a beggar in Oxford, along with the coins in my pocket, only realising when I got back to London - that was a pain.
We had a Prime Minister a short time ago that spoke a lot about kindness. Some people, sadly quite a few people, mocked her for that. But not me, and not you.
Some other people thought kindness was quite cool for a while during Covid. It made sense to be a bit kind to each other - we were all in it together. But now it’s time to get back to regular life and leave such naivete behind.
But not us. Because, and please be kind about this next line because I’m well aware of just how hokey it is… Kindness is not just for Covid.
Whatever happens in this election kindness will still be here. It’ll be in you, and me. In Heidi, and my daughter, and in lots of us.
Which is just as well, because if the polls are right we’re going to need a lot of it.
But I’m not giving up yet! Aside from anything else there is less in those polls they would have you believe. Besides which, people act differently in that moment of truth in a polling booth, when they stop and think before they make their mark.
And no one ever regretted going with kindness.
Have a lovely day all of you - and let’s try a little kindness out there, it’s good stuff.