We’re just recovering from a particularly nasty gastro bug in our house. As I lolled about on the bed last Saturday afternoon feeling sorry for myself, I remembered another nasty bout of gastro many, many years ago. I’ll spare you the details of the symptoms as they were not the memorable part of the episode, it was what happened afterwards that has stuck in my memory.
I was living in southern NSW, boarding with a family and finding my feet in my first job as a brand new, squeaky clean psychologist. I didn’t know the family I was living with that well and I knew their daughter, who is the same age as me and was visiting her parents for a few days, even less. I had spent the Friday vomiting, but was determined to drive back to Melbourne for the weekend, so set off, with a bucket between my legs and a pile of towels next to me. When I returned on the Monday morning, I found my sheets washed and ironed, my bed re-made and some flowers in my room, with a short note which read, ‘It’s nice to have clean sheets after you’ve been sick. Katey xx’
I still think that’s one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. I am a bit fascinated by kindness these days and often think about Katey’s kindness and many other kindnesses that have come my way. I have been reading the book On Kindness by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor. It’s a comprehensive history of kindness and an examination of what motivates kindness in people these days…and more importantly why kindness is so out of fashion. Phillips and Taylor make a good argument for how kindness has become our guilty pleasure; something we can’t admit to enjoying. And, how we tend to trivialise kind acts and view kindness with suspicion. It’s interesting to think about how and why kindness has moved from being seen as a natural virtue, inherently part of humankind to the point where people generally think that kindness is a weakness and only practised by losers. How often do you see the words ‘winner’ and ‘kind’ or ‘kindness’ in the same sentence?
Real kindness requires us to be vulnerable; to be aware of our own and other people’s vulnerabilities. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that kindness is so out of favour…we all like to feel safe and don’t like to experience the unpredictable, which is what happens when we act in kindness; we never know where it might lead. Personally, I think kindness is one of the best parts of humankind and should be embraced. It is wonderful to be part of kindness in any way…as an observer, a receiver or a giver.