Being kind because we’re part of something bigger

Last week I was talking about being kind. For that post I focused on the benefits to you. Today I want to continue to bang on about being kind, because of the benefits to others as well as to you.

Maya Angelo once said ‘be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud’. She talked about how she’s had a lot of clouds, but also a lot of rainbows. She tells us that important it is that we realise we have the power to make a positive difference to others and she talks about the power of kindness has helped her do hard things.

It seems a bit of a no-brainer that I might write a blog which essentially is arguing that it’s nice when you’re nice. But in a world where the focus is so often on ourselves, on personal gain, on our own careers, our own families, our own lives, it’s easy to forget others. Plus, with the current restrictions about seeing others, our worlds may have shrunk. We may be seeing others less or find it harder to recognise the plight of others when we are working hard just to keep ourselves on an even keel. In these circumstances doing something for others might not be top of our priority list.

I put it to you, that sometimes stepping outside ourselves and the challenges we are facing can be really refreshing. There’s often tough stuff to grapple with and sometimes we need a break, or a bit of perspective.

Whilst we often value our friends, we don’t often pay attention to the value we get from being a collective. A group of people from one town, one area, one country. We often think of these ideas as divisive, pitching one town/area/country against another. That’s not the way I mean us to think about it.

Instead I want us to think about groups we identify with (parents at a particular school, squash players, puppy owners, psychologists, chocolate lovers) as a force for good, a way to connect with others and see ourselves as bigger than individuals or a family. Beyond that there are groups to whom we are members, formally and informally. When we went into lockdown and we all followed the rules, staying at home and just going out for exercise, when we cross the road to give people space, when we let someone in front of us in the queue, then we are doing something for others, not just for ourselves. We are being kind because it impacts on the group positively, rather than because it necessarily benefits us.

Human, Observer, Exhibition, Photomontage, Faces

We don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives. When we let them go before us in a queue we may be doing them a kindness that we will never know the impact of. But perhaps, one day, when we’re having a bad day, or just a normal day, we might really appreciate that someone does something kind for us. I’ve never forgotten the day someone gave me change for the car park machine years ago. (see here). I’ve also not forgotten how, during lockdown, when we drew a rainbow on our street, one couple commented that it had cheered them up. We can’t make everything in the world ok for everyone all of the time. There will always be clouds. But we can be the rainbow for someone, somewhere. All it takes is a little act of kindness.

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