This article originally appeared in Virgin Voyeur Magazine.
Do you ever wonder that we lose sight of the simplest act of human kindness, small insignificant gestures between people that decades ago were taken for granted? I remember as a kid the little things my grandfather would do for others, without a thought of what was coming to him in return. Things like mowing the neighbour’s lawn when he was out doing his own, offering to pick something up from the shops, my grandmother baking a sponge cake for friends sick in hospital. That generation, having come through the war knew about tough times, when people had to bond together to make it through, all facing similar challenges. There was an understanding of circumstance, compassion and kindness.
Over the last three decades, if we compare ourselves to other countries, Australia has generally enjoyed a good many years of prosperity, with a robust economy, low inflation and a low employment rate. During that time it seems our primary focus has moved towards personal financial growth, building careers, seeking higher wages, owning homes and making more and more money. It can be expensive living in this wonderful country and with that comes constant pressure to keep the money wheel turning over. Yes the GFC hit hard globally and in doing so also showed our vulnerability, putting a spotlight back on basic human moralities and personal principles we hold high, like compassion, empathy and kindness.
Are we really so busy these days with heads buried in technology that we forget about the small stuff? Reaching out to others with a selfless act, no matter how small, just to lend a hand of friendship?
I remember with great fondness my grandparents’ friendly, open approach towards others. For me being so young at the time it’s had a lasting impact. You never know what circumstances people are facing at any given time and simply being kind and helpful could easily change someone’s day from bad to better.
One of our amazing coaches on #BalanceBDH is a woman called Katrina Cavanough. She has spent 22 years as a relationship and trauma therapist and has worked a lot with children. She fully believes that the cultural change and shift in attitude has to begin with young children and to teach them the importance of empathy. She has research showing that when children are connected with empathy, for others and themselves, they have lower rates of depression and anxiety. Importantly there is far less bullying in schools. She explains that empathy is a tricky concept for many to understand, particularly kids, but everyone understands kindness.
Katrina recently launched Kindness On Purpose a school-based program which is slowly gaining traction through the education system. Katrina shares the simplest examples of a kindness act with kids – like encouraging them to talk to other children in the playground who are sitting alone, opening the gate for their teacher or offering up some of their treats. They may seem the smallest of gestures but it’s an empowering positive emotion that kids easily pick up on and hopefully pass on to others.
My nephew Jack who just turned 11 is one of the kindest people I have ever come across. If he is ever given a gift of a toys or snacks, he always offers them to others first, including his younger brother Josh! It is completely unprompted, just his innate sense of selflessness. Being a proud Aunt it’s a beautiful thing to witness and I wish more people were like him. Reminds me of the celebrated quote from a somewhat infamous ‘home-schooling’ mum, Angela Schwindt who lives in Oregon USA by the name of Angela Schwindt, “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”
Kindness is far from a new concept but it’s good to see that the pendulum is swinging back in favour of compassion and understanding. I was reading somewhere that people are more productive when others are nice to them, maybe because someone has taken the time to stop, really look at them and show their appreciation.
So while you’re sitting here reading this, think about the person next to you or across the aisle…perhaps throw them a smile or offer for them to go before you as you head out towards the exit. If we all think about it collectively, knowing that the smallest of gestures can create everlasting change and what a nicer place the world would be.