Let me tell you what kindness has looked like for me this week.
It’s come in the shape of a takeaway pizza, possibly the first meal I haven’t had to prepare for myself and my family in 9 weeks, gifted to me at a 2m distance by a friend.
It’s come in the form of texts and calls to check I’m ok after hearing some really difficult news.
It’s come from other people in what they’ve said, and what they’ve tried to do for me.
And here’s what kindness to myself has looked like: morning runs alone in the park; coffee; rereading Harry Potter; chocolate; letting myself sit in the sun and stare out the window.
When I think of kindness I think of what it means to be gentle with one another. I think of that quote that gets attributed to lots of different of people (including Bob Dylan’s grandma) – “Always be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”
So in this mental health awareness week, when our focus is on kindness I find myself asking – who can I be a little more gentle with?
Kindness connects us to people in a deep and wonderful way. When we are kind to people we can’t help but make them feel like we might be a good, safe person to be around. So kindness builds up trust and makes it feels safer to be together.
And kindness is infectious, I think. If someone has been kind to me I feel more able to be kind to someone else. When I feel touched by something you did, there’s a natural response that leads me to want to make someone else feel good.
So kindness has this amazing energy that connects us together. And it doesn’t get used up, it actually keeps generating more energy as it goes. It even helps me learn how to be kind to myself. If someone has been kind to me – and made me feel lovable, and worth some kindness – it can feel easier to be kind to myself afterwards. And that makes me more likely to reach out towards others.
When we feel bad about ourselves we usually want to isolate ourselves. We put ourselves out of the reach of kindness, believing we don’t deserve it or won’t get it. We punish ourselves, we criticise ourselves. We stay alone. We're more likely to self-harm because we're cut off from the things and people that can help us.
But kindness has the power to reach us there. It can make connection possible again.
I don’t know if what it feels like to think about kindness today. Perhaps you feel starved of it yourself and wonder if it will ever reach you again. Or maybe you feel like you could do something small for someone – a tiny gesture of gentleness and care that will make them feel seen and appreciated.
I hope that if you feel you have it in you, you’ll seize the day and do something kind – even to someone who doesn’t deserve it (remember Bob Dylan’s grandma!).
And if you are the one aching for kindness, if you’re the one who feels alone and beyond the reach of someone’s gentle care, could you let me give you permission to do something kind for yourself today? Call it a way of marking Mental Health Awareness week, a way of casting your stone into the ocean of the world’s indifference in the hope that ripples will come back to you somehow.