When exactly did I learn to be kind? I cannot remember how I knew to show kindness to others but I do know that a lot of it came from having a sibling – who I admit, I may not have always shown the greatest kindness to (sorry Zooma). But somehow, whether through my family network or schooling or the Care Bears cartoons, I knew that it mattered. So what then is going on with the world you may ask that we need to be reminded to commit random acts of kindness as part of some mindfulness mission when it should just be part of who we are?
“When people ask me why does kindness matter – I always respond, how could it not matter? It’s common sense really” says Alexandra Blakemore, founder of French Navy Stationery & Ettiquette and a great friend who I treasure for her thoughtfulness.
“The way we live life at present means we are more connected (via devices) than ever before, yet more disconnected emotionally and spiritually, which is leading to a lack of emotional awareness. We have become too busy being busy.”
Yes, we all have lots to do and that means we all multitask (although proven to not be as efficient as we might think) but while that is all going on we’re just not paying attention to the present.
“We completely miss these moments and forget to show the simple courtesy of being present, being polite, smiling and being grateful. Frankly, I think everyone is just a bit fed up and over this lack of respect and of being ignored,” she says.
“At the end of the day, people just want to be heard and made to feel welcome”
For Alexandra, kindness means being present, being aware of other people and importantly, making others feel welcome but while we know and appreciate kindness as an outward act, directed toward others, it can be a harder task to turn that kindness inwards.
“This has taken a long time for me to learn,” Alexandra admits, “I have always been kind to others, however ridiculously hard on myself.” And though I’m certain it’s not an uncommon feeling it is important to acknowledge, because as the great RuPaul says ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’
While we can paint a broad brushstroke to what constitutes kindness, for each of us, it manifests in different ways. Maybe it means you smile at your barista every morning, say thank you, because without that coffee you’d be grumpy – maybe you ask your supermarket checkout attendant how their day is going because most people ignore them for their phone – maybe you text your sister to see how her day is going because uni life is tough – or maybe you send a friend a kind thought to brighten their day just because you’re thankful to have them in your life.
What these moments truly require is that you’re present, you’re grateful and you’re open to engaging with humanity. Sure it’s easier to put headphones on and stay in a digital bunker (I’m an introvert, I should know!) but I’m going to give the last word to Winnie the Pooh who reminds us that ‘A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference’.
Alexandra Blakemore is founder of French Navy Stationery & Etiquette and has recently launched a limited edition collection of Kindness Cards.