February 17th, was national ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ day. What did you do? I am sitting here full of the flu, confined to my bed, staring out of the window and forced to depend on the kindness of my husband and son as they ferry food and medication to me at regular intervals and hope not to catch the bug from me.
I’m going talk about three kinds of kindnesses:
• Kindness from people you know
• Kindness from strangers
• Kindness to yourself
Kindness is one of those things that is taken for granted when it is provided for us by our nearest and dearest. We expect it and at times demand it, not realising that the one providing it has a choice. Indeed, they could choose not to provide it. For example, in my case if I didn’t have my family, I would have to drag my sorry behind downstairs in my sickened state and fend for myself; coughing and spluttering all over the place. Not a pretty sight. Yet, this is the plight of millions of lonely people up and down the country. In moments like this, I could bemoan the fact that I have been struck down by the flu, despite my efforts to take my vitamins, exercise and be healthy, or I could be grateful that I get the opportunity to benefit from the lens of seeing the kindness of my family. I get to promise not to take them from granted when I am feeling better and perhaps remember to reciprocate when they need me.
Then there is the kindness of strangers. People who don’t know you but are kind to you for whatever reason. Can you remember when someone was kind to you for no reason and how it felt? No doubt you went looking for an ulterior motive because we just cannot accept a random act of kindness. They must want something. There is no such thing as free lunch; the motive will all be revealed in the end. These are all thoughts that run through our heads. We repeatedly question any act of kindness that is not hooked in what we think the other party wants from us, and then miss out on enjoying the moment. So what if there is an ulterior motive? Why are you allowing something that might probably be, destroy the joy of the present moment? How about just enjoying the moment and maybe, just maybe, it might be a random act of kindness? Sometimes we just miss magical moments like this because we are jaded and too preoccupied with looking for the ulterior motive.
A few years ago, I was in Ghana on holiday and as the car I was travelling in approached a set of traffic lights, a beggar came towards our car begging for money. She was obviously used to people just avoiding eye contact and staring right past her. Maybe it was the fact that she was a woman with an infant tugging at her breast that got to me. For some bizarre reason, in spite of being told by the driver not to roll the window down and to ignore the beggars, something in me just gave. I reached into my wallet and took out the largest note in the local currency I could find. I knew this could make a difference to her for months! I gave it to her, and the most surprising thing happened. As I looked into her eyes expecting to see the waves of gratitude overwhelm her, she just said the perfunctory ‘thank you’ but she didn’t even look at how much I had given her. She was just used to being given bits of change and assumed this was more of the same. No doubt at some point later in the day, when she got the chance to assess her ‘meagre’ takings of the day, she got herself a nice surprise; the benefit of the kindness of a stranger. I on the other hand was perhaps denied the chance of seeing the enormous sense of gratitude in her eyes but I knew I had done a good deed and that was good enough for me.
Then there is the kindness we show to ourselves. Did I mention I have the flu? Well indulge me again, I have the flu. So, what I am doing writing this blog rather than just laying in bed allowing myself to be waited on hand and foot? Am I being kind to myself? I assure you, I am being kind to myself by confining myself to the bedroom. My husband has had a sore leg for three weeks and has been to the doctors twice, seen a physio and an osteopath and is on three kinds of pain medications. Can I get him to sit still for more than an hour? Not on your life! He has been hobbling for three weeks, which I believe, is not helping anyone, least of all himself. Maybe it is a man thing, but I am still waiting for him to be kind to himself and just stop!
I haven’t been downstairs all day and there is no pain in my leg and I am only on Lemsip, so in my book, I am being very kind. The feelings of fever come and go, and this is of the windows where I am high on Lemsip and feeling like I haven’t got flu, so I thought I will get the blog out as I haven’t written in weeks and I am beginning to feel like I am letting my readers down. I promise that as soon as I finish this piece, I am going back under the duvet to be waited on by my kind relatives again, including said husband with the hobbling leg, or else he will start twitching and we can’t have that.
But I digress. When was the last time you stopped to be kind to yourself? We push, and we push ourselves until we are brought down to our knees. We expect others to be kind to us. We are kind to others, even strangers, but when it comes to ourselves, we seem to be at loss as to what to do. Kindness to ourselves should not be an afterthought. In my book: Octopus on a Treadmill: Women, Success, Health, Happiness, I explain about how self-care is a necessity not a luxury. Remember you cannot pour from an empty cup. You must take care of yourself before you can be of service to anyone, including your dependants. Also, in the moments when you cannot take care of others, you must allow yourself to be taken care of. That to me is the ultimate kindness to yourself.
As you go about your business today, try and recognise the acts of kindness from those you know, be kind to strangers and above all, be kind to yourself.
I am off, the Lemsip beckons and I can hear the footsteps of someone coming to see if I am alright. The world if full of kindness, if only you will open your eyes.
Enjoy your week.