With the festive season upon us I wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind of late: kindness. Humanities propensity for kindness is something we can be truly proud of.
There is only one kindness. It’s a feeling we all know; a simple act that offers no reward or guarantee. Quite different to goodness or politeness or love – they can be easily faked, or pretended. Contrivances can circle these traits like vultures. You can be good to someone, you can be generous and respectful; you can give them the wet lick of love but not necessarily be kind.
It’s true that we have on our planet great acts of kindness and sadly heart wrenching acts of cruelty. Just look at what has been going on in Syria – the government and Russian jets deliberately bombing hospitals. What would make a person or people do that or give such an order? To hear of such dark wanton acts are distressing, so I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to actually be there.
I was wholly reminded of kindness years ago when I was lying in a hospital bed being tended to by a huddle of people. Being so humbled by the experienced, I knew I would walk out never to be the same again. It was an unassuming kindness that effected me deeply. Such things are more noticeable when you are lying on your back, vulnerable, getting prodded and injected. The kindness envelopes you and your mind disengages and gives over to it.
Kindness is a universal language and people express it differently. Some people are incredibly kind to all except a particular person (often a partner) who cops the lot – a punching bag of resentment. I have a friend who is incredibly kind to animals. When stray or stricken he takes them home, nurtures them, delivers them into care. In his younger days he would rally on about cruelty to animals, but when it came to treatment of his fellow man (or woman) he was often brutal. Now a changed man, he has seen the error of his ways.
I have regrets about my own lack of kindness in the past. (I remember being puzzled years ago when an elderly lady said to me that she never had any regrets in life. I thought how could that be possible after all those years. Surely there are things everyone would have misgivings about). Recently in an interview, David Gilmour, a member of the band Pink Floyd, was discussing his past and all the agro that went down in the group. He said he could clearly see how ambitiously ruthless he was at times. He seemed to have surprised himself with his honesty. I can relate to what he said. There is one regret that I can see dangling right in front of me: that I wasn’t more kind to people when it was needed. Today I look back and see how mean I was at times.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees.” Amelia Earhart
Importantly, we need to be kind not only to others but to ourselves. We can be so cruel and hard when looking at our own lives (maybe that’s why we dish it out to others). So take time to be kind to yourself. And I don’t mean taking a candle lit bath, nurturing yourself and becoming all squidgy and soft. What I mean is truly be kind in your heart and mind as to who you are.
So if someone asked me the question: What is the one virtue you would like people to foster while ambling about on this planet? I would reply: kindness.
Truly, what else is there? Is that our true humanity? I like to think so.
Blessings and Peace (and Kindness) and have a wonderful festive season
Christopher James Wild