Showing others kindness is, in my humble opinion, one of the most gratifying and fulfilling things you can do. It generally costs little more than effort, and it can honest change lives. We often take small gestures of kindness for granted.
I grew up with disability in the household. My mother had Multiple Sclerosis, and passed away just over 10 years ago. When I was 10 or 11, she moved from our family home into a full-time caring facility. I spent much of my childhood exploring the halls and interacting with some of the more lucid residents.
My favourite part about going to visit my mum was dinner time. Dinner was served in a communal space, with a small kitchen, and many of the residents would go there to eat, or to be fed by their carer.
I don’t remember how it started. I was probably offered a meal one night because I complained of being hungry. From that day forth, I would meekly approach the counter of the kitchen at least once a week and ask for a meal.
The cook didn’t have to give me anything. I was a child of a resident, and I wasn’t entitled to anything. But each time, she would tell me the options available and let me choose a meal for myself.
That small act of kindness has stuck with me after all these years. When planning to write the post, I drew a blank at first. Kindness can be a weird combination of common courtesy and foreign entity. We are often kind to one another in a general sense, but we don’t necessarily go out of our way to show kindness to those around us.
Some people find this easier than others, like the cook at my mother’s nursing home. After letting this topic percolate in my mind for a few days, that memory of being served food for free as a child, that act of kindness, stood out the most for me. I won’t ever forget it.
The Conscious Beginning of Kindness
In the Conscious Beginnings mindfulness growth program (found here), we learnt how to show kindness to ourselves and to others through mindfulness and meditation. We discussed how we talk to ourselves, and how harsh self-criticism colours our world.
We were encouraged to show kindness to others in the world, even strangers. It was a radical, yet strangely refreshing notion.
I found it difficult to muster the courage to engage with my family and friends with an extra dose of kindness. I ended up by doing very small acts, such as helping with a task or chore that I normally wouldn’t help with. Even just that experience helped me to feel more connected with myself, and with the person I was helping.
Now, I try to extend my acts of kindness to anyone I interact with, even if it’s as simple as the act of being there, with a friend in crisis, listening to their story without judgment. Sometimes it can be that easy.
Kindness – Inside and Out
We all need kindness. Literally need it. Humans are a pack animal, and we need to take care of each other. Each of us are hard-wired for kindness. Without the kindness of others, humans wilt and deteriorate like a flower without sunshine.
So why then, is it often so challenging for us to be kind to ourselves? This is a question I constantly ask myself. I am finding that as I continue my mindful journey, I am slowly but surely gravitating towards self-compassion. I am learning to take care of my own best interests. There have been a lot of stumbling blocks, a lot of false starts.
But I am getting there.
For some, including myself, this isn’t an easy way of living. It takes practice to show others kindness, and sometimes a course or growth program, or some radical shift in direction in life to shake things up. It is worth the effort however, and I don’t for a second regret the choice to act with more kindness, to myself and to others.
We’re only human after all.
Stephen is a budding counsellor, avid craft beer enthusiast, and part-time Buddhist. He enjoys hiking, connecting with nature, losing himself in deep conversation, and contributing to the Conscious Beginnings blog.