It’s possible Random Acts of Kindness Day 2019 probably bypassed you — it was on the 17th February — but although it’s useful to have an awareness day so that people are aware of RAKtivism (yes, it’s actually a thing), we should be kind, randomly or otherwise, every day. Without getting too profound so early in this piece, acts of kindness don’t have to involve other people either. You are allowed to be kind to yourself too. More about that later.
Someone I follow on Twitter recently asked for examples of kind things strangers have done, and the responses will restore any faith you may have lost in humanity. I’ll put the link to the original tweet at the end of this piece so you aren’t distracted yet by the rabbit hole that is the over 1500 responses he received. I was actually able to offer up a story. When I was 18, I was driving home late at night on my own. It was a proper pea-souper of a night (reference for the over 40s amongst you, the rest have Google) and my car broke down. It was a Citroen 2CV and in breaking down, the electrics blew completely. Fortunately, there wasn’t much traffic around, and what there was, was being very well-behaved. The two cars behind me realised instantly what the problem was. One overtook me, at great risk to their own safety, and pulled in front with their hazard lights on, and another pulled up behind with their hazard lights on. Both couples got out and between us, we managed to get the car onto the verge. One of the couples then went out of their way to drive me home. These were the days before mobile phones (hush now, I’m not THAT old) so my mum was waiting at home with some concern. I have never forgotten the quick thinking and kindness of those people, and it was nearly 30 years ago (ok, maybe I am THAT old).
The examples on this Twitter thread really made me think about acts of kindness. I think the things I took away from reading them more than anything else was that they don’t have to be big gestures and by nature are usually spontaneous. We as humans are driven into a situation where we are ‘forced’ to make a decision — be kind or carry on with your life. Fortunately, most of us are hardwired to be kind and help. But it’s not always the easiest path, especially if we are in a hurry, or by helping we are causing ourselves some inconvenience. Like driving an 18-year-old home after her car breaks down when it means a long diversion from your originally planned journey. What also interested me in the replies were how many were people who were being kind in spite of company policies. I’m pretty sure that Morrisons (other supermarkets are available) don’t encourage or even allow their managers to give away bags of shopping to customers who can’t afford to pay, and yet it seems managers have done exactly that. Presumably, they have to cover the cost of the shopping from their own pockets, which gives the whole act another layer entirely.
And some acts of kindness can be life-changing. A campaign, Small Talk Saves Lives was run recently by National Rail and the Samaritans to encourage people to stop and talk to people at railway stations if they had any suspicion that they may be needing help. The point being that just saying ‘hello’ to someone, commenting on the weather, or saying that you like their top can quite literally change how someone’s day is going. Noticing people who have given up on being noticed can be the difference between life and death.
I suppose my point is that kindness takes many forms. From paying someone a compliment, noticing they’re having a bad day, paying for someone’s parking, the Awesome Foundation giving out fivers, making a colleague a cuppa when they have a lot of work on, letting that car out in front of you, basically doing something without expectation of something in return, the list is endless. The BBC website recently featured this lovely story, again proving that it doesn’t take much.
I mentioned self-kindness at the start. We all have the ability to be very hard on ourselves, beating ourselves up for not getting something done, or for doing something half-heartedly, spending money that we shouldn’t really have or snapping at someone who was trying to help. We are all human and we are all fallible. Self-kindness is merely acknowledging and accepting that and moving on. Cut yourself some slack. Go for a walk, read a book, do some yoga, have a cup of tea or a gin, phone a friend, but do something for you.
Oh yes, and here’s the tweet that started all this.