Kindness by Angela Caldin
I had a video call the other day with my family in Auckland. My youngest granddaughter ran towards the camera in a stripy nightie with the words be kind in white lettering on the front. Nice, I thought, better than so many of the annoying slogans on girls’ clothes such as: little miss attitude, cool kid alert, girls rule, princess, j’adore and totally in love with today.
Then I thought about the sort of slogans we see on boys’ t-shirts such as: here comes trouble; young, wild and free, roarsome dude and being this handsome takes practice. I wondered whether you would ever see be kind on an item of boys’ clothing. Unlikely, it seemed to me.
A female preserve?
The thought was uppermost in my mind, especially when I heard Jacinda Ardern’s magnificent speech at the UN which stressed the need for global cooperation and kindness from world leaders, in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s call for increased isolationism and national self-interest. Ardern called for equality for women, rejection of racism, action on climate change and a recommitment to multilateralism, saying: ‘We must rediscover our shared belief in the value, rather than the harm, of connectedness.’ Her concluding words were among the most moving, ‘In the face of isolationism, protectionism, racism – the simple concept of looking outwardly and beyond ourselves, of kindness and collectivism, might just be as good a starting point as any.’
There it was again, kindness, called for by this young prime minister with a three month old baby in tow. Was kindness perhaps a feminine trait, would a male world leader stand before the assembled leaders of the world and call for kindness?
A universal attribute
I was beginning to think that kindness was not a male thing at all. That is, until I read a remarkable novel by Gail Honeyman called Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. One of the main themes of the novel is that of loneliness, as well as profound grief following a traumatic incident. But there is also the dominant theme of friendship and of how small acts of kindness can slowly bring about the healing process. The interesting thing is that those little kindnesses come from a rather shambolic, unkempt man.
It’s a work of fiction, but it shows me that kindness is not just the preserve of women as I was beginning to think; men can lay claim to kindness too. A man called Leo Buscaglia (motivational speaker, writer, professor) said this:
‘Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.’