‘One simple act of kindness might make a huge difference to someone else’
Sometimes it’s much easier to be cruel than be kind. Children for example, are often naturally spiteful, teenagers thoughtless when it comes to the words they choose and even as adults, it’s often much easier to criticise family, friends and work colleagues rather than praise or encourage them.
I remember returning home after my first term as a student and saying the words: “I will never live at home again!.” For my part it was a totally throw-away comment, but those few words deeply hurt my mum, as she was to remind me several times over the ensuing years. I still feel shame when I remember saying them, (totally inappropriately as they were the first words I uttered to my waiting parents on getting off the train.) At least I still feel that shame and have carried it with me for many years.
Charles Dickens novels are filled with characters easily divided as cruel or kind and in today’s society this strong division is perhaps less visible. Or is it? Some people happily give away fortunes to those less fortunate, whilst others are never willing to share. The ‘haves’ often have no consideration for the ‘have nots’ and this has certainly become apparent in recent times.
The early days of the global pandemic showed many examples of kindness and consideration. People walking around the empty streets near their homes greeted neighbours they normally ignored with a kindly exchange, (albeit from a safe distance.) Amongst fear and panic there was gratitude, offers to help the elderly and those people ‘sheltering’, thoughtful messaging on social media, clapping for the NHS and vital services and the development of a community spirit, whether this was all part of the developing virtual world or in real life. But somewhere over time, just as the flowers of summer have faded, so has the intrinsic feeling of kindness towards others.
This has really become very apparent to me on social media platforms. Earlier this year there were lots of posts designed to create a ‘light mood’ with happy pictures, memories, or positive messaging. Somewhere in the virtual confusion of our Covid world, this seems to have largely stopped.
….To the extent that suddenly I see people criticising each other unnecessarily, to the point of being hurtful. Of course you can politely disagree with something, that is each person’s right, but there is a way to disagree without being spiteful, by carefully choosing your words, or in most case, perhaps it is better to say nothing or to ‘unfollow.’ One big problem with social media, is in saying something unkind to someone, we have no idea how fragile that other person is, because, of course, we often don’t actually know our ‘friends’ and our ‘followers’.
If one of my family or my close friends says they don’t like an outfit I’m wearing, I’ll probably pull a face, say I don’t care because I like it, or call them a bitch….Then I’ll go and relook at myself to see if they were kindly telling me the outfit really doesn’t suit me. However, I trust my relationship with those people and also value their opinion and taste, (which may be very different to mine of course.) Their words are unlikely to have a lasting effect on me, or my mental health. But, if I put a picture on Instagram because I think I look good in something and someone writes. “Terrible look!” that’s a slightly different matter.
(This hasn’t happened by the way, although I have had some pretty pointed comments, but if it did I am pretty sure it would upset me, even if I have no knowledge of the other person or any reason to be distressed.) ……..Now I consider myself to be sane, and pretty level-headed and I wouldn’t describe myself as mentally fragile, but if I’m admitting a stranger’s critical words could upset me, then just imagine what it would be like if my mental health was poor!
I recently read a very long piece on Instagram, posted by a highly professional person whose account is about giving advice in a very serious manner. She had recently been ‘trolled,’ personally criticised and repeatedly victimised, to the extent that she said she had been lying awake at night unable to sleep, is highly distressed and struggling to get through the day. Almost as soon as I’d read her heart-wrenching words I saw another person who said she was leaving social media because it was interfering with her life and she had become obsessed. I’m appalled on many levels when I read things like this. For me, social media is about inspiration and ideas, information and communicating in a positive way. I believe whatever I post should be done with authenticity, reaching out to people (predominantly women) with whom I can share ideas and knowledge and absolutely showing thoughtfulness and kindness.
And this follows through into real life. These strange times have shown me that there are a lot of people out there feeling lost and lonely. Sometimes a smile is enough, but a quick message can mean so much. We need to show we care. One thing I’ve really seen over the last months is reaching out to people and talking about my own fears and worries helps them. I think most of us have had a few ‘black’ days, and that’s to be expected. Sharing your feelings and finding others are going through the same emotions can really help you and the people with whom you’re communicating.
I hope, in the end, the experiences we are all going through will have some positives we can take with us through the rest of our lives. For my part, I’ve realised how, as humans, we need each other. Wherever we are, whoever we are, whatever age we are, we need to feel kindness extending out to us. The warmth that feeling brings will give strength, positivity and hope and goodness knows, we all need some of that at the moment.
So think about it! A simple act of kindness each day doesn’t need to take any effort, doesn’t need to cost anything and doesn’t require much time, but it might make a huge difference to someone else.