“I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else.”
This quote came up on my timeline the other day. I noticed it because it echoed a sentiment that I have heard a lot recently. I think I might have overlooked the importance of kindness previously. Seen it as less important than intelligence or humour or tenacity, for example. Less interesting.
I think I was totally wrong.
As I get older and, unexpectedly, the world seems bigger and, at times, scarier than it did previously, and I’m increasingly reminded of our fragility at the same time as I appreciate how amazing it is that we’re actually here, kindness seems to take on a new significance to me.
Life is hard. It’s unfair sometimes. It can be cruel. Lonely, even, when you realise that, ultimately, we’re here on our own. And, even though it’s wonderful and we’re really pretty fucking lucky to experience it here and now, it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming and slightly like we’re freewheeling our way through the universe.
And kindness makes such an unbelievable difference. It is like a hand reaching out through space to grab you. It’s warm, like sunshine. It’s a beacon when things around it feel dark.
I’ve had a mixed year. I’ve felt, sometimes, like I’m veering in the wrong direction. I’ve been disconnected, as though I’m standing on the edge of a crowd and watching everyone else rush past and it would be so scarily easy for me to be lost, forgotten, crushed.
And, the thing that has made the most difference during those times is kindness. The friend that brings me a bunch of flowers after a shit day; the colleague who pops out to get me some chocolate mini rolls when I’m hard against it; the text message asking how my day has been; the guy who offers to carry my suitcase when I’m struggling to yank it up the stairs at the station –
It is amazing how transformative such small acts can be.
And as I’ve been thinking about kindness, I’ve realised that it takes lots of things to be kind. It takes an awareness of – and empathy with – other people. It takes, sometimes, a risk when you put yourself out for someone and are not quite sure how they’ll respond. It takes a step out of your own shit, a putting someone else first. It takes a particular kind of attitude – one that is governed by love for someone rather than judgement or expectation or even your own beliefs. It takes patience.
I’m not great at kindness. I’m shit at doing the coffee rounds at work. I often get so caught up in my own crap that I don’t look beyond my world. I’m hesitant about offering a stranger a hand. I am not always forgiving, to either myself or other people –
And I think I would like to be. I think it really matters. And I think I absolutely agree with Roald Dahl.