Sunday 13th November is World Kindness Day and so, not surprisingly, I thought I would talk about being kind!
It’s something parents regularly tell children to be and yet, they often need to repeat it weekly, daily, or even hourly! In those instances, being kind means - sharing the sweets, not winding siblings up or making them cry big, gasp-punctuated tears on too regular a basis. It may involve not pulling someone else’s pigtails, not kicking the cat, or not calling people rude names….
And of course at funerals, the recently departed are usually cited to have been ‘very kind’.
And that’s it isn’t it? It’s not really something requested of us, as adults in our daily lives. Yet that is what we are being encouraged to be all on World Kindness Day.
I think it was Maya Angelou who said that whilst people may forget what you said or what you did, they will never forget how you made them feel. And that’s so true, isn’t it? I’m sure if I asked you, you could list the people who have made (or still make) you feel inferior, unworthy, or insignificant. And that’s interesting, isn’t it?
Because for me, many of those incidents happened several decades ago, and yet – boom - there those people are, right in the forefront of my mind - a sibling wiring my hand to a car battery, a childhood ‘friend’ making me take the end AGAIN in skipping, a past co-worker creating toxicity in the team and a more recent manager just being downright mean.
Neural pathways run deep and unkind people, bullies and bad guys hardwire those connecting synapses.
So how do we do it? How do we be kind?
Is it simply a matter of helping the elderly across a street, or putting change in a charity box? That’s the easy stuff, isn’t it? Can’t we be much more purposeful?
Today is a day when people purpose to donate books, food, or clothing - but World Kindness Day could also be the day you purpose to be kind daily. For more than a day.
I’m not thinking about giving away your clothing or books every day - I’m talking about your daily interactions with people, both online and in real life, being a purposed kindly event!
I’m a member of several groups, a gospel choir, a dinner club, and a ‘people-who-like-to-knit-and-dye-their-hair-purple- group’ (check it out I promise you, it’s real!). I’m not saying I’m bosom friends with all of them, but we regularly interact and engage on different topics - namely singing, food, and crafting. And I’m constantly surprised by how often people offend other people by being unkind. When they really don’t need to be. Mainly because people disagree about something.
In Ding Dong Merrily on High, should we sing Glor-i- ah-ah- ah- ah- ah- ah ah-ah- ah- ah- ah- ah ah-ah- ah- ah- ah- ah ah-ah, or Glor or-or-or-or-or, or-or-or-or or-or-or-ia (as it is written, surely)?
Does the cream or jam go first on the scone? Or, indeed ‘scon’?
What’s the “proper” way to cast on?
It seems everyone has an opinion or belief about how each topic should be done and they could well be right. But they aren’t always. My grandmother used to say it was better to be kind than right and I think there’s a lot in that.
If you want to see unkindness, indeed toxicity at its worst - have a look on Twitter. Be kind, people! And if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all - scroll on, walk by, and don’t get involved.
Being kind is not pretending we don’t have strong beliefs about how something should be done – it’s about not letting those beliefs change how we treat those people who disagree with us.
If we are followers of Jesus we carry a set of convictions taken from the bible, so in our case - those convictions/ beliefs SHOULD be changing how we treat other people, but only for the better.
Sadly, Christianity is often thought of as a list of behaviours not to get involved in, a list of things not to do, but here is a challenge of an activity to purposely and positively GET involved in and to actively do!
Here’s the challenge - who can you think of who is least like you? Got them? Does someone spring to mind immediately? That person who you say - “I can’t imagine how they could think that’ or, “I just don’t understand them.” The one who you cross the street to avoid, or the one whose call you never take and pray doesn’t leave a message.
Your challenge is to be kind to that person, be kind to them.
But, but, I hear you say - you don’t understand! They’re idiots. They’re ridiculous! Useless/ lazy/stupid/bigoted (delete as applicable). You see, how you see people, determines how you treat people. When you see people who you determine to be of less value than you, then you treat them differently.
So, this week - be kind, purposely kind. Sure, you can do the easy thing and help those little old people across the street and put your loose change in the charity box. Or you could go for the one that will really make a difference and choose to be kind to that person.
Smile, hold the door, ask them how their day is going. Buy them coffee and ask about their lives. Surprise them with a cake, a cup of tea, or a new pen. Give them a discount code or voucher. And do it every day this week.
Jesus gave status and dignity to the poor and sick, just by hanging out with them. He redefined what a neighbour was: he hung around with all the ‘wrong’ people and He changed their lives.
It’s not an exaggeration to say kindness can change a life.
The real challenge is to see how many you can change in yours. But start slowly - take it one day at a time, but do start this week.