As part of my role with Right Here in Brighton and Hove, I co-facilitate six-week courses in Anger Management for people aged 16-25.
Last week, I came out of the building where we hold these sessions, and as I walked up the road, I smiled at a homeless man. I wasn’t expecting him to speak.
“Can I ask a favour?”
“Actually I-” I found myself about to say I was in a hurry. But I wasn’t. So I began my answer again. “What can I do?”
“Could you watch my dog while I pop into that shop to get some dog food?”
“Sure.” I smiled and stepped under the scaffolding to crouch beside his dog, who was clearly used to being left with strangers.
He took some money off his guitar case and left. I though a lot about the stereotypes I have around talking to strangers. It cost me nothing, not more than a minute of my time, to give this dog food and the man a moment to stretch his legs. I’m a cat person, so I just crouched beside the chocolate Labrador, talking gently as it looked around for its missing owner. When the man returned, I smiled and said it was no problem.
I walked off; although something in me found that uncomfortable. I had no money with me. I had smiled, had given him a moment to walk around, to care for his pet…
And yet I felt a tug as I walked away.
This Isn’t Right.
Acts of Kindness
In the western world, I feel that we’re so busy being competitive; rushing to reach the next high that we avoid anything which may distract us from that. I hope that the man manages to get a different person each day to watch his dog for 60 seconds – to show that he is human, that he cares for his animal, and that he deserves as much time from another human being as anyone else.
Mostly though, I support his action of showing each human being who walks down West Street that it really costs them nothing to be kind. Even if neither party is aware of that lesson; it’s a side-effect of his request.
May 21st marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week; and this year’s theme is “carrying out acts of kindness for strangers”. Helping others makes us feel good – so why not help more people?
As I run a meditation society on campus, this instantly reminded me of my favourite meditation. The practice is called “metta bahvana” which means loving-kindness, or compassion. In the meditation, you bring up feelings of compassion and direct them at yourself, your friend, a neutral person and someone you find difficult – before spreading that feeling over every being on the planet.
It’s my favourite meditation: connecting me with other humans who are experiencing everything that I also experience. That man is anxious about his family. That lady has pain in her lower back. That child is upset over the recent death of the family pet.
We all experience suffering and we can all show kindness. So why not begin now?
If you’re afraid it will backfire; you have an explanation. If you get a weird, suspicious look; explain that it is act of kindness week and smile.
We can all find a moment to be kind, and doing good does us good.
Need some ideas? Take a look at these; see if any resonate with you:
1) Try out metta bahvana meditation. It will take less than 10 minutes.
2) Smile at everyone
3) Say hello, have a good day/trip, please and thank you.
4) Pick some flowers from the roadside and give them to people you don’t know that well (take them into the office, maybe).
5) Compliment someone, sincerely.
6) Smile at a busker. Explain that you have no money but offer to give them a few minutes of your listening/advice-giving time. Converse, smile and connect.
7) Let someone have your seat on public transport – irrespective of whether they look like they need it.
8) If someone is running for your bus, ask the driver to wait.
9) Make a card for your housemate/colleague/friend using plain paper and a couple of pencils. Give it to them “just to make them smile”.
10) Ask how someone is and really listen to their answer.
11) Offer to hold or carry something for someone who is struggling but travelling the same direction as you. Or just open doors for them.
12) Become an organ donor or give blood. (See this video for one example of how this kindness can really change people’s lives)
For other ideas, head to The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
Got any ideas to share? Want to share your own experiences with the meditation, being kind or receiving kindness? Leave a comment below and let us know!
What are your thoughts on kindness – are we kind enough? Are we afraid to be kind?
– Rose –