On my first day of high school I caught the wrong bus. Instead of an ‘all stops’, I got on an ‘express’ bus which sailed straight past my school and into the city. I had been nervous enough about starting school without this added drama. How would I get back? Would I have to explain my stupid mistake to my new teacher in front of a whole class of people I didn’t know? I was almost in tears by the time the bus finally stopped.
Luckily for me, the bus driver was feeling particularly kind. After I explained the situation he used up his whole break time to drive me all the way back to school and cheerfully chatted to me the whole journey about how much fun school was and all the great friends I was sure to make. I got there right on the bell and was actually excited to get to class. Since that day I have encountered many, many grumpy, disgruntled bus drivers but the only one that I vividly remember is the one that went out of his way to be genuinely kind. And when I think about it, that lovely bus driver appeared on the one bus trip I needed him most.
Sometimes it’s easy to find evidence that no one cares. In the wider world as well as in our own backyard, there seems to be a collective anger, distrust, isolation and general lack of looking out for one another. People would generally agree that while being kind might be morally admirable, it doesn’t get you very far in the real world. If you asked most bosses about the most advantageous personality traits to have in order to run a company, it is highly unlikely kindness would make the list. And yet, most employees would undoubtedly agree that if they had a kinder, more appreciative boss it would make them far more productive and far more loyal. Kindness is often viewed with suspicion and confusion. Even if a kind act is deemed genuine and offered without a hidden agenda, few would see it as demonstrating strength or power. In fact, as a good friend of mine so succinctly put it: kindness is viewed as weakness.
But everyone would like more kindness in their lives. Everyone wants to feel valued, loved, acknowledged, appreciated – that they are significant somehow in the chaotic immensity that is life. And who has not experienced how the smallest act of kindness – a smile, a helping hand, a bus driver going out of his way to make sure you get where you need to go – can totally transform someone’s day? And if there were more of these little acts of kindness, transforming more people’s days each and every day, making people feel more appreciated, more significant, more positive about themselves and the world, I’d say that adds up to something pretty powerful.
So in an effort to live the beautiful adage “Be the change you want to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi) and make it more than pretty idealism, here is my plan: to perform an act of kindness each day for a whole year. I am going to come up with 31 kind acts to perform each month – I will let you know what I have so far in my next post and I would love to hear your suggestions. I will start and finish this project on my birthday, April 5th, and make my 26th year of life a Year of Kindness.