This week I’ve been on the receiving end of loads of small kindnesses.
- My lovely mum found me an umbrella for me to take shopping as it looked like rain. She reminded me to mind the step as she does every time I leave the house, knowing that I’m a clumsy oaf and likely to trip.
- My neighbour popped round with a gift of chocolate. Me, being me, I’ve eaten it already. To be honest, she had hardly got out the door before it had gone.
- Instead of calling me out for being too lazy to book my own flight Saint Mick, accepted my ‘it’s too hard’ line and organised my flight home for me.
- Using my ‘it’s too hard’ line once again, my brother, came to my rescue and ordered and fixed me a new oven as mine has conked out.
- My sister-in-law made me dinner, knowing it is one thing my having a new oven, but quite another thing switching it on.
- My dear old dad offered me his buggy to drive home across the road in as my sciatica was painful.
- My friend sent me a daily ‘feel good’ text from Bangkok.
- My daughter phoned and made me laugh with tales of her dad’s cake eating escapades so I wouldn’t be homesick.
- My other daughter texted she was back safe and sound from a party, so I wouldn’t worry. Not that I am prone to worrying you understand.
And so on…
Many moons ago, when Saint Mick and I were first teaching in Tanzania a teaching couple called Linda and Earl (last names now forgotten) invited us for Christmas lunch. They were of the mindset that if they were kind to other people’s kids (us), then someone somewhere would hopefully be being kind to their own absent children.
Perhaps some kids are born innately kind and others aren’t. I started to write that my own kids are blessed with the kindness gene, but, thinking about it, we do have old video footage of Annie, at only 18 months, giving her baby sister a hairbrush to hold, so as to take a ball – the preferred toy of choice – from her. An arguably kind action that was actually completely self-serving. Manipulation not kindness being the order of the day!
It’s possible to argue, and I think I probably do, that Linda’s and Earl’s act of kindness was also actually a selfish act – more Thomas Hobbes than John Locke! I even think I agree with Hobbes that people actions are all based on selfishness. What I’m not sure about though, is whether this means that life has to be ‘nasty, brutish and short’ for us all.
As adults, if my own kids can make someone else smile or feel good then they do so without thinking ‘what’s in it for me’. The same for all the other people who have shown me kindness this week. Everyone’s ability to be kind is though a learned behaviour and if we go with Hobbes, it is ultimately self centred, even if not self-consciously so. I wonder, does that really matter? What do you think?