To be kind is defined as “having or showing a friendly, generous and considerate nature”. Isn’t that something we should all be aspiring to do, every day? And aren’t those characteristics so simple to embrace? To be friendly costs nothing more than a smile at a stranger. To be generous you only have to give a few seconds of your time. To be considerate you simply have to think of others as well as yourself. And yet how easy is it to let those things fall down our list of priorities. How simple is it to become so consumed with our own stress and worries, deadlines and to do lists, appointments and places to be, that we miss the opportunities that are right in front of us to show some kindness. Whilst out running errands, we are so busy rushing around the shops that we don’t look up to smile at other shoppers. When driving to an appointment, we become so focused on reaching our destination that we don’t see the person we could’ve given way to until it’s too late. As we are filling someone in on the day we’ve had, we can forget to notice that they might need a kind word or two also.
Our minds are so busy that we often don’t notice when someone else is in need. We become so engrossed in completing tasks that we don’t see an opportunity to help another until it’s passed us by. I’m so guilty of it. As the mother of a toddler who is constantly trying to run in the opposite direction to the one we are headed, I know how easy it is to become preoccupied by your own stresses and strains. I frequently huff and puff through the city, feeling like a pack horse with my hands full of bags and snacks and toddler; and I often end up rushing down the street avoiding eye contact with everyone around me. Sometimes I’ll be struggling in a shop trying to get money out of my purse, change will fall out and roll in one direction while my toddler runs away in the other and I’m questioning why I even attempted this shopping trip in the first place. I worry about what the people around me are thinking as I try to hurry away, and the stress of the situation consumes me.
But then sometimes, as I power walk towards our final destination (usually the car which is my happy place in these moments) someone will stop me. Often it’s because I’ve dropped something, and some kind person has stopped to pick it up to return it to me. Sometimes it’s just someone offering me a smile, and usually a joke about how full my hands are. Occasionally it’s someone with a kind word, about how happy Dil looks while I carry him or how fast they grow up. These moments stop me in my tracks and pull me from my stressed out haze. They remind me to lighten up and chill out, to stop rushing through the day as if we’re on a timer. These teeny tiny acts of kindness immediately change my mindset, they bring a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart and suddenly my day doesn’t feel quite so bad. These moments, although so incredibly small that it would be easy to take them for granted, make my day a better one.
Kindness is important to me. It’s the most important value I want to instil in my children. I want them to know that in a world which seems to determine people’s value based on their beauty or intelligence, you can achieve great things just by being kind. I want to raise children who stop the rushing mother to give her back the dummy her child dropped. I want to raise children who smile at a grumpy looking stranger in the street and make him smile back. I want to raise children who can laugh and joke with people and brighten their day just the tiniest bit, without even realising what they are doing. Most importantly I want to raise children who find joy in this, and understand that a great thing about being kind is how good it makes YOU feel, knowing you made someone else’s day just a little better.
During our Random Acts of Kindness project this summer we have carried out lots of fun planned tasks and activities which we’ll definitely carry on doing throughout the rest of the year. My next challenge for you all though is more simple. Next time you’re out and about, keep your eyes open. Look for those little opportunities to show someone even the tiniest amount of kindness and watch as you make their day a better one. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Photography by Mr. Adam Robertson