Along with being Friday 13th (don’t panic) and Children In Need day (again, don’t panic) today is:
World Kindness Day
Back in 1997, several humanitarian groups got together and made a 'Declaration of Kindness,' everyone is encouraged to do the same on this day. Every single thing you do counts apparently: donating clothes or food, volunteering at the old people’s home, helping an old lady across the road (whether she wants it or not), or simply making a few gestures toward strangers.
Now I’m used to making gestures at strangers, particularly when I’m driving, but today I think I’ll make kind gestures, a smile or a wave or maybe I could blow them a kiss, ‘cos that’s lucky too.
Kindness, what a big thing it is. Apparently there's a cup of it and you can kill someone with kindness, although I don’t know how unless you have a kind of knife. You also have to be cruel to be kind. Now this I know about. When I was a child there was a lot of cruelty masquerading as kindness around. Punishing a naughty child was the daily norm; a slap here, an insult there, hours of endless bellowing and name calling. It was all for my own good you understand, to knock some sense into me; a great example of kindness at its very best of being cruel to be kind.
World kindness Day is about being reminded that, despite what the past has been, there really are kind people in the world. You hear about them all the time, they are the ones who don’t walk past that guy sitting in the street on the pavement, they’re the ones who stop and talk to him, the ones that applaud the busker doing his best and slip a fiver into his hat. Sometimes I wonder why kindness can be so hard for us to manage. If human beings are capable of tremendous kindness, why don’t more people act with tremendous kindness more often? We are naturally inclined that way, see most very young children playing in a group when one falls over, but it’s almost as if, as we get older, we start to lose the impulse to be kind and get wrapped up in our own world, too busy and too angry to help anybody else. After all, doesn't charity, and the kindness required to give it, begin at home?
Kindness has been the subject of a philosophical debate for centuries. On the one hand you have those who advocate that people are inherently kind, even if they don’t always manifest it. On the other are those who believe that people are inherently selfish, and show kindness for self-serving reasons. A kind of, I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. Maybe that is why lonely and often ill people are befriended and nursed by ‘friends’ who go on to inherit their wealth. Yes there is kindness involved, but if you do it for a reason is it really genuine kindness?
We live in a competitive society, sometimes kindness is mistaken for weakness, and as we all know dogs eat dogs. Nobody wants to be that ‘sucker that’s born every minute.’ As we grow older we grow tougher out of self-protection, fear of losing, and slowly our natural childhood kindness is eroded. It’s as if we lose the need to be kind, forget that there are other people to consider other than ourselves in the tiny enclosed world we have created and inhabit. We lose our natural ability to be kind, but what we really lose is our humanity.