I only found out recently that there was such a thing as World Kindness Day – and today, 13 November 2016, is it! So happy kindness day. Here’s to being kind – and being a lawyer (if that’s not just too ironic) I of course went straight to the dictionary definition.
Kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.
Then I visited the website www.kindnessuk.com and discovered lots of great things that people have done in recent years to mark World Kindness Day. I particularly liked that World Kindness Australia conducted an enormous Kindness Hug on Bondi Beach, and that Kindness Scotland put on Kind Kid Awards. The kind people at Kindness UK are particularly focused on bringing the kindness message into classrooms, which is great. We all want our children to learn to be kind and considerate – but how does a virtue like kindness fit with us, the adults? Doesn’t it sometimes seem pointless to be kind? Isn’t it better to learn that the world is unkind, and get used to it?
It is, I suppose, the fact that life is so often unjust and unkind that makes kindness such a wonderful thing when we find it in other people – particularly unexpected kindness, because, unlike Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, we cannot always depend upon the kindness of strangers. When someone shows us kindness, particularly a stranger, it’s like receiving an unexpected gift. The world seems brighter for a moment: but, like all acts of giving, it needs constant renewal or the generous spirit fades.
So just for today, my challenge to myself, and to you, is a simple one: do your good deed for the day, and then do an extra one. Be friendly, generous and considerate. Be kind.
Remembrance Day sees millions of people thinking of loved ones and of those who have fallen in the great wars and subsequent conflicts. As an ex-serviceman, who signed up as a ‘boy’ soldier at 16 going on 17 years old, I think of all the boy soldiers some as young as 14, who joined up in the great wars and who died as boy soldiers – those brave, dare I say fool hardy and misguided boys who, for some were looking for excitement, adventure and danger while others I suspect joined up out of duty. For me it was the former, I was looking for an escape that excitement, a new life. I never thought about my own mortality at 16, I did not care whether I grew old, as I imagine did some of those boys who went to war.
I listened to an old soldier speaking on the radio, in a tired and reflective voice he recalls when he joined up as a young man and him and his mates wanted to fight to change the world (for the good). He remembered that within a very short time changing the world was far from his mind, his main motivation for fighting was survival. He remembered the horrors of war, his experience of entering Belsen Concentration camp and seeing its survivors, memories that haunt him to this day. The old soldier concluded that in war there are no winners.
I trained for war; I went on large scale exercises in Europe along with other countries to practice for war, but I imagine that no amount of training or practice readies you for the trauma of the real thing, as we are seeing now of service personnel coming back from active service.
I also heard and agree with this statement that remembering should be a personal and dignified activity, without judgement or recourse: they fought for a right to freedom and that includes choice.
I am still involved in conflict, the context however is very different as I work to improve relationships and lives within families. Making them aware that conflict is a normal part of family life, that due to all the internal and external influences interacting within the family, conflict can escalate quickly and become destructive, leading to relationship breakdowns, and again – no winners.
Going back to basics; being open to understanding relationships better, being proactive and responding more compassionately can prevent, de-escalate and even improve relationships within families and therefore improve lives. I read that love, recognition and praise are what we crave from family and in other intimate relationships and I believe if received, these elements underpin confidence, competence and resilience within the person.
On this day of remembrance value the relationships you have and reflect on those who have fallen and the relationships that were lost.
Duty called and I went to war
Though I’d never fired a gun before
I paid the price for your new day
As all my dreams were blown away
Harry Riley (A poem for Armistice Day)