I have experienced many acts of kindness for sure, but I have also experienced acts of unkindness, both within a single hour on one occasion.
My car broke down at 6:30 am one morning on a busy road, I was standing next to my car looking a bit helpless in my NHS uniform, quite obviously on my way to work, the traffic building up but no one offered any assistance for about half an hour until finally a lovely man, in a white van I might add, stopped and tried his best to help me get the car going, unfortunately to no avail, so he gestured to the cars queuing to pass by for someone to stop and help push it off the road and clear the traffic building up. Even though I was in tears by this point, most people wouldn’t make eye contact with us and they just drove on past. Eventually between the two of us we got it off the road and so the traffic was able to continue normally.
I was touched by the man who did his best to help me, an act of kindness indeed, but was equally astonished by the lack of kindness by the rest of the general public that morning who made the decision not to show a fellow human being any goodwill. I’m sure they all had their reasons for not helping and maybe some of them actually felt a bit guilty, but I hope the man in the van felt good about himself, his kindness made my day.
A few weeks ago I was sitting with my daughter on a packed London Underground when she automatically offered her seat to a woman – laden down with shopping, a baby strapped to her chest – who had boarded the train at the previous stop. We were sitting in the middle of the carriage and all the designated seats at each end of the row were occupied by commuters, none of who even bothered to look up.
This Leap Year social media is encouraging us to use February’s extra day to perform a random act of kindness.
But what constitutes a random act of kindness and isn’t it sad that we need to be reminded of it in the first place? Kindness doesn’t have to be grandiose or sweeping gestures. It is the little things that count – taking the time to chat to an old lady in the bus queue, helping a struggling mum up the stairs with her buggy, buying a bunch of daffodils for someone who’s feeling blue or buying a stranger a cup of tea.
Some months ago I noticed an elderly lady in Marks & Spencer who looked so stylish that I felt compelled to stop and tell her that she looked “absolutely stunning”. She was speechless for a moment and then flung her arms around me and gave me a kiss protesting “but why would you say something so kind, you’re a total stranger”. I hope that my comment made her day; it certainly made mine – in fact I still glow when I remember the encounter.
My point is that being kind doesn’t only benefit the recipient. Being kind can make you feel good too, so why stop at the 29th February?
Why not make kindness a way of life? David Jamilly, founder of Kindness UK, believes that after the hedonism of the noughties it’s now cool to be kind so if you want my recommendation, it’s make February 29th the start of a new era of kindness. After all what have you got to lose?