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.’
Kindness is the kaupapa of the Good Bitches Baking Trust. The very epitome of kindness.
Well, I had to look up Good Bitches Baking Trust and once I’d done so I realised that it is a Very Good Thing. It’s a network of people who want to show kindness to those in their communities having a tough time in the form of home baking. http://goodbitchesbaking.co.nz/
I had to look up kaupapa as well and I think that in this context it refers to the purpose of the Trust.
Good to hear from you, Ann, we haven’t heard from you in a while.
Thanks Angela, that’s an interesting reflection. Probably a sad indication of another detrimental impact Trump is having on society in general.
I posit there are as many kind men as kind women, in the same way there are as many brave women as men – society probably favours the stereotype of the brave man and the kind woman, when both clearly exist regardless of gender race or persuasion.
To my knowledge, there is no propensity of either kindness nor bravery to favour either sex. I’m very grateful for that and for those who practice kindness, and those who are brave, as a way of life.
I’m very interested in your comment and I’m still pondering on your position. I’ve met many kind men in my time and indeed I’m married to one, but working in the field of the criminal law, I’ve seen a great deal of meanness, abuse and violence perpetrated by men who were a great deal more than merely unkind. Fewer women stood accused of such crimes. But I do admit that is looking at a particular corner of society.
In any case, it’s great to have your comment.
Thanks Angela – I’m guessing the ‘gap’ might be in how we measure kind (or brave). By that I mean whilst I would never dispute the evidence before the courts, where I agree entirely with you, there is a great deal of unkindness that doesn’t register in the court system (which is also, albeit too high, a small proportion of the population). I wonder too if we are predisposed to observing, or not observing, kindness/unkindness in a particular gender – now you’ve got me thinking!!