A smile, a hug, an unselfish thought…
The concept of kindness is as wide as the range of beneficial effects it can engender. Any one definition of it would never be sufficient to house its many rewarding qualities.
For a start, let’s consider this long list of synonyms which all reflect kindness:
benevolence, charity, generosity, courtesy, hospitality, friendliness, goodwill, goodness, grace, tolerance, understanding, gentleness, helpfulness, assistance.
Any small task
- Any ordinary day becomes a pleasurable one when a random gesture of kindness is one of the ingredients.
- You cannot reach an item high on a supermarket shelf. A smiling stranger unhesitatingly reaches up to get it down for you. And the ensuing goodwill lightens the drudgery of that dutiful weekly shop.
- Your mood at work is not the best after a sleepless night. A caring colleague unexpectedly deposits some small yet thoughtful gift onto your desk, in commiseration. And your tired brain experiences a resurgence of energy, even if the gift was not a strong cup of coffee!
- A common enough misfortune befalls you, like a flat tyre or dead battery when you urgently need to use your car. And from seemingly nowhere comes the offer of assistance in the form of jump leads or a jack from a sympathetic stranger.
Let’s consider for a moment just how good that kindness feels.
While it was convenient, time-saving and even, in cases, cost-saving, it was to a far greater extent reassuring about the nature of the human race during this sometimes-tiresome journey called life.
It was uplifting, inspiring, stirring, heartening. It saved far more than money or time; it also saved a considerable amount of irritation and distress.
Doing unto others
Knowing how good it feels, therefore, and having carefully considered the many beneficial side-effects it engenders, one would have to be extremely disagreeable or downright stubborn not to put the practice of showing of kindness into effect. After all, it’s all about doing to others what you would like others to do to you. And kindness can be contagious. Those who receive it, almost always feel more inclined to give it in return.
Kindness is care-giving
Pondering the notion of kindness leads one to consider a profession which is perhaps undervalued, despite being so essential and so potentially ennobling: caregiving.
Any investigation of the qualities needed to ensure a happy and successful relationship between caregiver and patient, invariably brings one face to face with suggestions which revolve, each and every one, around the concept of kindness. In summary form, it is important that both parties:
- exercise insight into the needs of the other
- feel compassion towards those needs
- use mutual encouragement regarding the tasks required
- be a good listener to promote communication and understanding
- do what the other person enjoys in terms of hobbies or pastimes
- practice mutual respect
It is hard to imagine ANY relationship not flourishing if these praiseworthy principles are brought into play. But it takes two to tango: for a harmonious, meaningful and therefore healing balance of energy to exist, both the caregiver and the patient need to practice the showing of kindness.
Being elderly brings with it trials that can be demanding and stressful. Ill-health and general infirmity can cause feelings of resentment, inadequacy, insecurity, fear. These are legitimate feelings which damage the patient’s self-esteem and can manifest as ill-temper, impatience or a lack of gratitude.
The caregiver should at all times try to be cognisant of such underlying challenges and approach the situation with calm, patience, understanding and forgiveness. Equally the patient needs to remember that an attitude of gratitude and reciprocal respect for the caregiver’s needs is essential for a balanced, mutually nourishing bond.
Think on this: every single one of us is a caregiver in relation to the treasured people in our lives. The principles put forward in the caregiver/patient situation above can only enhance the profound gratification gained from these precious relationships.
Wider acts of kindness
So many unexplored avenues to spread kindness exist – non-profit organisations aiding both needy people and animals distribute essential goods to the underprivileged, the sick, the abused or traumatised. There are hospitals, shelters and social services organisations always in dire need of volunteers to help lighten the suffering, fear and helplessness of the downtrodden and neglected.
Forgiveness is kindness
When Nelson Mandela was released after serving 27 years on Robben Island, he did not choose the path of revenge. He chose forgiveness, one of the most difficult, ennobling forms of kindness. It is a well-known fact that he invited his former jailers to his 1994 presidential inauguration.
As for his ongoing words of philosophical wisdom about kindness and compassion: the rest is history. To summarise this theme in the brilliant words of the great Mark Twain:
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
The Helderberg Society for the Aged
The Helderberg Society for the Aged provides a variety of secure lifestyle options for elderly people in an environment of compassion and care. Compassion goes a long way in making every day a contented, relaxed and gratifying one.
We pride ourselves on nurturing an atmosphere of mutual kindness where growing old gracefully becomes a reliable daily reality. We believe life should be lived to the fullest for all the people within our services which encompass Independent Living, Assisted Living, Home Based Care and Frail Care.
Learn more at: www.hsfa.org.za