I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my son going to High School next year and how we had discovered a boy who had been bullying him for years would be at the same school. I will admit I panicked. I never have a reasonable reaction to bullying because I have seen some kids crushed because of it.
There have been some developments since then. I have been overwhelmed by kindness. It has come from an unexpected source. It has come from the High School Principal. This is a woman who doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my child, but who has treated us both with such respect and care that I am almost lost for words.
I have had coffee in her office. I have had lengthy conversations with her. I have been surprised to discover that she is a teacher in the true sense of the word in that she regards teaching as a vocation not just as a job. And she is concerned for the welfare of every child enrolled at her school.
I had misgivings about sending Nick to that school, I really did. But now I don’t. The principal has single-handedly restored my faith. She has assured me Nick will be all right and I believe her. Her kindness, her taking the time to reassure me, has convinced me more than any form of rhetoric ever could.
We’ll take High School one step at a time, but for now I feel confident in her ability to manage any situation that may arise.
Which brings me to something close to my heart – the nature of kindness.
I think it takes a lot of courage to be kind, to step up and help another person. To go out of your way.
It’s sad, but people aren’t used to kindness anymore. They are suspicious of strangers who offer them aid. They are often equally suspicious of people they know who carry out an act of kindness towards them. My neighbour, who is very wealthy, believes her daughter is so kind to her because she is protecting her inheritance. A friend believes, quite firmly, that her husband is only kind to her when he has been up to something.
There is something beautiful about kindness, something poised and graceful that takes us aback. It is probably the most selfless act we can perform for another, and because it is an act for which we expect nothing in return, it is prone to arouse suspicion in others.
I mean, no one does anything for nothing these days, right?
The High School Principal need not have gone out of her way for me. Her quota for next year has already been filled. She could have said: ‘That’s your problem, not mine’ or ‘You’re carrying on about nothing.’ She could have shown that she didn’t care. But instead, she chose to be kind.
When I encounter or receive an act of kindness I feel lucky, blessed. I am reminded that the gods have not forsaken me. And I look for kind acts everywhere I go, still hardly daring to believe that someone, somewhere whom I may or may not know might perform an act of kindness that I can witness. There is brightness, purity in the realisation.
When kindness is bestowed upon me, I want to bestow it upon others. It seems to be the nature of it – it gets into your blood, urging you to be better than you thought you could.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox said something so beautiful about kindness that reading it often brings me to tears:
So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.
She’s right, isn’t she? It’s all the world needs. Forget about the greed, and brutality, and despair, and hatred we read about every day. It’s those little stories of kindness happening the world over that should be making the headlines. They are a salve, a balm, fragments of the divine. And in an increasingly disconnected world, perhaps they are the only thing that’s real.