Ah, the start of another year. No, I am not going to produce a list of New Year’s Resolutions. What I am going to do is to suggest we be kinder in this bright new year that has been presented to us. And to make kindness a habit: a habit to keep.
It is not wussy to be kind. Lebanese/American poet, Kahlil Gibran said, ‘Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.’
It doesn’t hurt to be kind. A simple, small kindness is the stronger sibling of polite. Accompanied by a smile, it’s an easy thing to do and (perhaps not surprisingly) an effortless way to boost one’s own mood. A bigger kindness, taking more effort and more time, will reap even bigger rewards and happier results for both the giver of kindness and the recipient.
We cannot know the degree of how much a kind gesture will affect another. ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle’ are words sometimes attributed to Plato. So, it seems that we humans have been advised of the wisdom of kindness for a very long time!
2015, the year we have just endured – and I say ‘endured’ because it seemed to be a year of worries and horrors – has ended. It is not particularly pleasant to look back on such a year. The awful actions and ongoing threats of terrorists have diminished us all as human beings. The tragedy of the refugee crisis - and the hardening of hearts towards refugees - has shocked many to the core.
Our radio waves (via ‘shock jocks') have sometimes been the source of bitterness and hate towards fellow human beings - and the notion of kindness in even its simplest form has shrunk – or so it has appeared.
We are not setting a good example to our children. We complain a lot! Events like road rage incidents have an aspect of brutality that makes kindness, understanding and consideration concepts that have completely disappeared from view!
What are we thinking? Can we improve? We’ve all read about ‘random acts of kindness’ and been impressed. But, why are they so note-worthy? Can't we make these sorts of acts a normal way of treating others? It would certainly make for a better world. And it starts with every small act of kindness by every ‘small’ and ‘insignificant’ human being on the planet: You and me. Can we make this new year a year of kindness to others?
Incidental small kindnesses can be as simple as stepping back to allow someone to enter a queue before you. Or picking up an object dropped by another – whether friend or stranger – with a smile on your face. You can be kind just by offering a compliment. A bigger act of kindness might be something like baking cookies for kids whose mum never has time for such things, or mowing the grass for a mate who is not as young as he used to be. Being kind is just an extension of thoughtfulness. You can be kind to members of your own family – something that is often neglected! You can be kind to a friend, a neighbour or a complete stranger. Be aware and alert to ‘kindness opportunities’.
Browsing one day recently, I found these words from English author, Neil Gaiman:
‘I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.’
Read those words through a couple of times. And…go kindly into the new year.