Kindness is like sprouts and silence – underrated. You rarely see it promoted in laws or tested in exams. It fails to reach the Hollywood heights alongside beauty, brains, courage and wealth. It’s not a gift bestowed on Sleeping Beauty at her christening. And the frog wins his kiss through a guilt trip, not generosity.
Why is this beautiful, heroic quality so unsung? Perhaps because it’s quiet, camera-shy and hard to define. It comes from the old English word ‘cynd’, which means ‘innate nature,’ leading to ‘the feelings of relatives for each other.’ So kindness begins at home – with ‘kin’ or family. But it travels far beyond: to volunteers in Greece who rescue strangers staggering off boats, or to my friend who serves tea on the street to homeless people. The dictionary definition of kindness – ‘being friendly, generous, and considerate’ – hardly scratches the surface. What about the creativity, freedom and wonder that attend a kind act, so startling and one-way that it can only come from God?
Though hard to define, it’s easy to spot. Why not make a kindness list to zing up the darkening days? Here are some highlights from my last week.
The Transition Year pupil who listened, asked questions and gave choices to her partner with learning difficulties as they wrote a story together. ‘What colour is the man’s hair, do you think? Is he called Charlie or Pete?
One of my daughters hugging her sister for a success she’d love to have had.
The teacher I saw cleaning a pupil’s schoolbag after her yoghurt leaked.
My husband turning off the hot tap, removing the bowl from the sink and running the cold tap to get me a glass of water in the middle of his washing up. Mini-kindnesses are mega.
Librarians. All of them, everywhere, always, with their coffee, whopper scones, enthusiasm and patience with hare-brained visiting authors.