Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Most Important Thing in the World

08:30:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , 4 comments
The most important thing in the world is to be kind.

This is the lesson my mother taught me.  She taught me lots of things, obviously, but this one vital idea was repeated many times over the years.  If this is your doctrine, you don't need other rules, because this covers most eventualities. 

Kindness is a modest proposal.  It requires understanding and empathy towards each other along with the extra effort of being helpful and generous. 

One of the stories of Enid Blyton which always stayed with me was The Girl Who Was Left Behind which appeared in her Stories for Bedtime book.  The tale involves a young girl who is on her way for a day out, with her school, at the beach.  She has been looking forward to the day out for some time.  On her way to catch the bus, she sees a boy fall off his bicycle.  Although she knows she will miss the bus, and her day out, she stops and helps the boy, walking him home to his mother who is so moved by the kindness that she takes the three of them for a day out by the sea in her car (cars were a big deal when this book was written). 

Personally, I know that I've missed many opportunities to be kind simply because I considered myself to be too busy.  It's an easy get out.  There are other excuses which go through my head when I see someone in need.  One of them is the idea that a person begging for money on the street can get help by going to a shelter or through the 'proper channels'.  And maybe they're not really destitute anyway.  Who can tell?

I've watched a neighbour's child run to school in the rain, even though I was driving in that direction, because I didn't want to make my own daughter late (I know - I'm a monster).  I even watched my neighbours stand outside in the evening while they waited for the gas company to check for a leak because my place was a mess and I was too embarrassed to ask them in (at least it wasn't raining this time).  So much for kindness.

Although I know I do kind things for people regularly, it's the instances when I could have helped and didn't that stick in my mind.  I feel ashamed that I didn't do that little bit.

Recently, I was walking with my daughter in the park.  We were tired and had our arms full of stuff.  A young girl ran up to a bin by the path and tried to put a bag of rubbish into the bin.  The bag split and rubbish fell all over the ground.  I felt sorry for the girl but was planning to carry on my way when my daughter turned to me and handed me her bags.  She ran over to the young girl and told her not to worry, that she would sort it out.  The young girl smiled and ran back to her family.  My daughter picked all the rubbish up and, as it wouldn't fit in the bin, put it back into the bag, re-tying it at the side so it wouldn't spill. 

Last week, this same daughter took part in the GISHWHES international scavenger hunt.  She co-operated with a group of 14 other girls from across the globe.  They did all sorts of crazy things to get points which included making a bikini out of tea bags, helping to break the Guinness World Record for hugs given in a week, covering my car in rubbish, hosting a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in a lift, making an origami crane in the rain, and posting a haiku about waiting in a bus stop. 

If you know how awkward teenagers can find social situations, you'll realise that to do all this meant going beyond their comfort zones.  Which makes me think that making myself late for work or feeling embarrassed isn't so bad compared to the opportunity to help someone in need or cheer someone up. 

Now I happen to know that the bloggers and readers of this blog are incredibly kind people.   My modest proposal is that we all go that little bit further this week and commit to an extra act of kindness.  If you'd like an idea, you can find plenty on the Random Act of Kindness website



Lisa Kelly said...

I love the whole Random Act of Kindness thing. There isn't enough kindness in the world. I remember being shocked as I used to struggle up and down stairs with Patrick in a pram as everyone rushed (and pushed) by me, having grown up with parents who would always lend a hand lifting the bottom of a stranger's pram.

There were the little community things on our old street in Liverpool where all the doors in the street would be open on a summer's day and we'd be in and out, everyone looking out for everyone else. I miss that whole sense of community and I hate that feeling when you smile at someone on the street and they look at you like you've lost the plot.

If everyone was a little nicer, the world would be a less hostile place.

Ashley R Lister said...

The reason your daughter is such an outstanding young woman is because of the good parenting skills to which she's been exposed.

Great post.


Colin Davies said...

I believe wholeheartedly in kindness. I don't agree with leaving your door open and letting everyone run in and out of your house, but I do agree that a child with a kind heart is the product of a loving parent.

I also agree with the idea in this post. That life isn't actually as complicated as all the self help books would have us believe (and I included the bible in that list). By kind to others. It's not that hard. It's how I live my life.

Great post, great message, and your daughter is a great credit to you.


Christo Heyworth said...

Good for you, Vicky.
Thanks for trying to turn back the tide of what I call Sugarism, or being successful only because you have been as nasty as possible to everyone else.