Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to reflect on what kindness means to me.
The dictionary definition of kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate”. It is argued that kindness has many benefits including increased happiness and a healthy heart. It slows down the ageing process and improves relationships and connections, which indirectly boosts your health.
In anticipation for writing this blog, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for random acts of kindness and I’ve realised that when you start looking, you find them absolutely everywhere.
To illustrate this point, here are just some of the acts of kindness I’ve noticed in my last 2 days of travel from Stockport to London and back again…
Love & Breakfast
I set off on Tuesday morning from Stockport station, leaving the house at 7.25am. Before I set off my husband made me breakfast. Something he does almost every day of the week. I love breakfast. It’s one of my favourite meals of the day.
But… I’m also a bit awkward – as I don’t really like cereal or toast. So, each breakfast has to be a real production! I feel better when I’m well fed (as do all of us) but more importantly I feel better when I feel loved. My husband making me breakfast shows me, tangibly, every morning, that he loves me. And therefore, I leave home a little bit happier.
My husband and two daughters drove me to the station at 7.25am. Now my girls are 8 and 7 years old and driving mummy to the train station is directly correlated to how much playtime they get. Drive mummy = less playtime. We gave them the option that morning and they chose to wave me off at the station.
That 15-minute journey made me feel wanted and treasured. I had time to ask them about their days ahead, they asked about mine and we prayed about the bits we were worried about. My time away from them was easier because we got the goodbyes right. One of the kindest things you can do is give of yourself and give your time.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Once on the train I started preparing for the day ahead, writing notes (and lists) in my Wellbeing Journal. Now this journal had arrived by post a week or so earlier with a note from my best friend, Jess – who suggested I use it when in London to brighten my day. I did just that and every time I used it, I smiled.
It signified to me that Jess really cares about me. She knows me well enough to know I feel a little bit sad every time I’m away from home. She knows me well enough to know how much I love stationary. She knows me well enough to know that the use of colour makes me happy. She knows me well enough to know I love gifts. Jess’s random act of kindness has stayed with me long after I first opened the envelope. It’s having a long-lasting impact.
Confidence & Thank Yous
My first day in London was to speak at Brunel University about leadership. I was nervous and dealing with a big dose of imposter syndrome. I put something on Twitter that morning and got lots of positive and uplifting comments, all of which gave me more confidence for the event itself. As a CEO of a small to medium charity, justifying the time and expense to travel to London to share my story can be a balancing act.
Brunel not only paid for my travel and overnight accommodation but also made a donation to my organisation. Someone met me at Brunel and took me for lunch and someone else took me for a drink afterwards. The kindness and generosity shown throughout that day made gave me confidence which in turn meant I performed better.
The following day I was getting a tube from Tower Hill in London to Euston. A man asked me the way to Kings Cross. I managed to let him know which way to go (even with my ridiculously poor sense of direction and being a Northerner in London too). Something totally insignificant to me but obviously meant a lot to him. He thanked me when I gave him directions. Sat next to me on the tube. Thanked me again when he got off. He smiled throughout too. That small interaction made me smile back.
Just before then, I’d been rushing from a meeting at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) in London to make my train back home. Now MHFA do the best lunches I’ve ever had at a third sector event. I was a bit gutted to miss out (on both the amazing food and wonderful company) but had balanced that it was probably better for my stress levels to forego my lunch and make my train on time.
As I said my goodbyes, Simon Blake (CEO of MHFA) offered me the opportunity to get a takeaway box and take my lunch with me. Kindness not only from Simon himself but from MHFA as an organisation too. The result, I was well fed, less rushed and looked after.
So the things I’ve learnt so far:
- You can identify and demonstrate kindness hundreds of times every day
- Regular and consistent kindness triggers really deep feelings
- Kindness doesn’t have to cost anything but can mean everything
- An act of kindness might be quick, but the impact can stay with you a while
- Kindness has unexpected benefits – better work performance, improved health and better sleep
- You feel better for giving kindness as well as receiving kindness
- Being on the receiving end of kindness surrounds you with protective factors
Will you join me in keeping your eyes peeled for the kindness all around you and do your best to be defiantly kind as well?