Let me tell you a story…
When my friend Debs went to her local shopping centre she noticed only one set of automatic doors was operational. An older lady was waiting to come through with one of those walking frames that has a seat. People were streaming through and the older lady was waiting and waiting, occasionally having a little sit down. Debs decided to stop and let the woman come through.
Debs walked away with a spring in her step knowing that she’d made a difference to someone else’s day.
It would be really easy to hear this story and focus only on the people who didn’t stop. To think ‘that’s typical, people are in such a rush these days that they don’t think about others’.
What if we notice the kindness of the person who did stop? What if we focus on the fact that someone noticed her and did something to help her out? This is suddenly a much more positive, uplifting story that gives us hope and makes us smile.
Sometimes people choose to turn away from acts of kindness in the world around them. They can be cynical about the motivations behind it. They can believe that kindness is weak and ‘soft’ and fear the vulnerability that suggests. But I believe that kindness is powerful. It connects us as human beings, in our shared humanity. It serves to show that we have much in common, often more than we realise or expect.
And that matters. It makes us feel better, feel less alone, whether we are the recipient or giver of kindness.
For some people, a focus on the more positive aspects of the story is a natural way of looking at the world. But for others it doesn’t come so naturally, for all sorts of reasons. I am fortunate that I have a tendency to look out for optimistic perspectives. That isn’t to say I don’t see the terrible things that are going on around the world. But I do try to balance that with hope and positivity.
I set up the Time for Kindness website in January 2021 to amplify stories of kindness. I wanted to do my bit to rebalance the narrative we can so easily get drawn into in the news and on social media.
The good news is that you can train yourself to notice kindness in the world. And once you start to do that, you will find that you spot it everywhere.
3 tips for spotting kindness
So where can you start? Here are 3 ideas you can try.
- Be conscious of your own thoughts and interpretations of situations. If you catch yourself focussing on the negative, stop and ask yourself if there is a different way to look at what’s going on. Even in the darkest of situations you can often spot someone who is doing something kind to help another person, however small their action is. The more you practise this way of thinking, the easier it will become.
- Recognise that even the smallest of acts can be kind. Kindness doesn’t just show up in grand gestures. Letting another customer in front of you at the supermarket, smiling at a stranger in the street, offering to do the washing up for a colleague – these are all small but mighty acts of kindness. And they add up over time.
- Be kind to yourself. It will be easier to spot something in others if you’re experiencing it yourself. So silence the negative inner talk, make time for a bubble bath, cook a delicious meal for your supper – whatever makes you feel good is a great way to be kind to you.
Kindness really is all around us. And once you start noticing it, you won’t be able to stop!