Today on Random Acts of Kindness Day 2021, author of The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside Jessica Ryn shares her thoughts on kindness, as well as ten ways we can be kind to both ourselves and others right now.
Kindness: More than just a hashtag
Kindness is something we see everywhere and during this time of uncertainty, we all need it more than ever. Hashtags like #BeKind are an important reminder against bullying behaviour on social media, but kindness isn’t just the absence of cruelty, it’s something we can be intentional about. Something that can bring about particles of happiness and peace to others and ourselves.
Since our lives were turned upside down last year, I’ve lost count of the extraordinary acts of kindness I’ve seen in my local town of Dover alone. Throughout the lockdowns, people have banded together to run errands, and to pick up shopping and prescriptions for those who were unable to go out. When the lorries were stuck at the port for days before Christmas with nowhere to go and with inadequate provisions; Sikh groups, churches, and locals came together to prepare and deliver meals. I’ve seen so many ‘small’ acts of kindness that have made my heart just as glad. There have been times over the last twelve months where I’ve received kindness that I’m not sure how I would have done without. Kindness really does keep the world spinning. ‘The funny thing is’, said the mole, ‘the tiniest act of kindness can save a life.’ (The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy).
One of my biggest inspirations for writing The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside was witnessing acts of kindness shown by residents in a homeless hostel I worked at, run by the wonderful homeless organisation, Porchlight. Even with few resources and their own problems and issues to deal with, they’d often drop everything in a heartbeat to help each other. I constantly saw staff going the extra mile to show kindness to residents and each other. This kindness is reflected in the characters of Dawn and her companions and I hope it inspires others to do the same.
It can be all too easy to feel we aren’t doing enough when we are unable to enact ‘big’ acts of kindness. During this lockdown, I haven’t been able to do the volunteering I did during the first one due to health issues and ramped up caring responsibilities in my home. It was difficult not to beat myself up, but kindness isn’t something that only counts ‘out there,’ it matters in our homes with the people we live with, our families and ourselves.
Self-kindness can be just another thing we feel we don’t have time for. I listened to Anna Mathur’s podcast yesterday, On Feeling Calmer in Chaos (annamathur.com/podcast/) and she said something that really hit home. We sometimes see things like having a shower, drinking water, or eating healthily as self-kindness when they are basic human needs. Real self-kindness is taking time to rest and listen to our own needs. It isn’t selfish or something to feel guilty about and we’ll then have far more of our own resources to be kind to others.
Five ways to show kindness to others:
- Send that text, make that call or post that card to remind that person you are thinking of them and that they’re not alone.
- Encourage someone to follow their dreams and be a good cheerleader.
- Support a local business.
- Share your skill with someone in a practical way.
- Support a local homeless charity such as Porchlight who help people like Dawn Brightside and Co: https://www.porchlight.org.uk/
Five ways to show kindness to yourself:
- Stop the negative self-talk – if you wouldn’t speak to someone else that way, don’t say it to yourself!
- Respect your own boundaries – say no to that thing that you don’t have the reserves for and ditch the unrealistic expectations.
- Set a small amount of time aside to pamper yourself – use that favourite luxury bath bomb at the back of your cupboard, listen to your favourite music and light a candle without feeling guilty or self-indulgent. You are worthy of this time.
- Allow time for a hobby – it doesn’t have to make money or be based on achievement, but something that gives you pleasure.
- Kill the comparison gremlin – use that energy to enjoy being your wonderful self.