On my way home from work yesterday, I popped into the supermarket and found myself walking across Sainsbury’s car park, behind two ladies wearing hijabs. As we approached the entrance, a woman walking out of the store, acknowledged the ladies in front of me, smiled brightly and said ‘good evening’.
The ladies turned to each other and looked surprised. Perhaps they were just surprised that an apparent stranger had gone out of her way to be so pointedly friendly. Perhaps it was this lady’s way (in light of recent political tensions) of making a positive point.
Whatever it was, the incident stuck with me and I kept thinking about it all night.
There’s no doubt we’re living in challenging times. We seem to be surrounded by bad news, violence and acts of indiscriminate xenophobia. I read the news and worry about the rage which seems to be bubbling up in people’s hearts, across all kinds of politics. More than ever, we seem to assume the worst in people, judge them by their skin colour or what they’re wearing, or even how they voted. My social media feeds are full of people shouting, ranting, making assumptions;
Remainers are blind idiots.
Leave voters are stupid racists.
Labour members are lefty socialists who want to destroy the country.
Tories are rich fascists who (also) want to destroy the country.
This online rage seems to be spilling over into real life too. In the last week, I’ve witnessed pals nearly lose years of loyal friendship, over a disagreement about a referendum. I read the news and it feels like there’s increasing levels of selfishness and a culture which seems addicted to assuming the worst in others.
Or maybe we’ve just forgotten how to be kind.
Kindness doesn’t have to be a sweeping, grand gesture of generosity. It can be acknowledging people as you walk past them. It can be chatting to (and making eye contact) with the person who works behind a till. It can be diffusing a screaming match on Facebook with a few gracious words.
Kindness is hard to do, but it goes an incredibly long way. Kindness helps to stabilise situations, it helps to bring light into darkened rooms. It helps others to feel like they’re not alone.
Watching a small act of kindness in a supermarket car park last night made me think about what I can do, to be kinder to people I meet or walk past every day.
There’s no spiritual or Biblical point here – just a simple reminder to myself, to be kind.
Choose kindness before judgement. Choose to believe the best, not the worst. Choose to de-escalate not inflame.
A little kindness from us all, could actually change the world.