The Milk of Human KindnessAugust 25, 2009
Most mornings I wake up to the BBC Radio London 94.9 breakfast show, which, as most speech radio breakfast shows do, give a mixture of serious and fun news items of the day. Most mornings I wake up to serious news bulletins with the dissection that follows. It doesn’t leave you feeling great about the world; especially if you then go on to have a difficult day. You may wonder at times if there’s anything left that’s good and you may also wonder if the things you do in the day actually matter or make a difference. This morning I woke up to something different.
I heard people calling in to talk about their random act of kindness. This was on the back of an interview earlier in the show with three men from Hampstead who set themselves up to do nice things for people whether it’s paying for their coffee, opening doors, paying compliments or other much bigger things. I missed that interview but it was good to hear something positive for a change. Their website is called thekindnessoffensive.com which details the kind of things they do and how you can get involved, if you wish. Being kind and doing good for people has been going on for several millennia and random acts of kindness as a concept has been going in America for a while now. I think they call it Pay It forward. Indeed, there’s a film of the same name starring Kevin Spacey. There was one fly in the ointment of this kindness love fest which came through an email from a listener who didn’t like the idea of these people ‘blowing their trumpets’ and opined that we should all just get on with it quietly and without fuss. Apart from being churlish and displaying the worst kind of sanctimony, this person had completely missed the point. These things need to be flagged up, as a counterpoint to all the other guff we have shoved through our ears and eyes on a daily basis so we think misery and fear is the reality of our lives. Our little acts of kindness are also the reality of our lives and there’s a lot more of it than you think.
I reckon I quietly perform a random act of kindness almost every day, as do most of us on this planet. I embarrass my friends on a regular basis because I will chase someone down the street to compliment them on their looks, or I’d offer seats and generally help someone out. Just yesterday, I was at the Idea Store in Canary Wharf, which is Tower Hamlets’ new fangled library concept, where I ended up helping an old man buy a book through Amazon, though my own internet minutes were ticking away. I received a couple of pieces of plain chocolate and undying thanks in return. A bitch for my waistline, but a boost to my heart.