The ripple effect of kindness

2008-02-01 00:00

Life doesn’t begin and end with Jacob Zuma. It would be nauseating if it did. Despite the fact that it may be the year of speculation as to whether he will be under the spotlight for fame or notoriety, as South Africans we need to focus wider than just local, or else we could land up insulating ourselves to a point of losing global perspective. But on another level we need to focus on the person standing right next to us.

According to the Chinese calendar, 2008 is the year of the rat, which commences in February. It’s a year of activity, hard work and renewal — a year to start afresh.

This year also sees the tallest skyscraper on the face of the Earth, Burj in Dubai, nearing completion. It is rumoured that it could reach a height of almost 900 metres and that it will cost within the region of $4 billion and I’ve heard that 2008 could be a year of extraordinary technological revolution — that if France’s 10 billion-euro project on nuclear fusion is a success, it could revolutionise the power sources on the planet to heights beyond most of our comprehension.

While projects like this amplify mankind’s pursuit of bigger and better, for me what’s important is the acknowledgement that the buck stops with each individual for the here and now.

I was delighted to read an article which amplified my personal feelings in the latest Psychologies magazine, titled “Be kind: it does you good”. The article reminds us that Ubuntu means that one is a person because of other people, and that we are intrinsically a socially interdependent species that is genetically imprinted with empathy. I’ve found that if I am in a supermarket queue and smile at the others in the queue, I immediately sense the stress levels around me diminishing and it enhances my own sense of well-being. Smiling and greeting the person attending to me has the same effect.

It’s sad that we live in a world where people are sometimes fearful to smile in case it is misconstrued. We live in a world of so much distrust, always on the defensive and on high self-preservation alert. Yet smiling, I’ve learnt, is like giving a gift of positive energy, which costs one nothing, as opposed to nuclear fusion energy’s multi-billion costs!

Building taller buildings, or achieving more potent results really can’t compare with small acts of kindness. Most of us will probably never see Burj in Dubai. And most of us won’t be able to comprehend nuclear fusion. But every human being on the planet benefits from small acts of kindness. The World Kindness Movement started in Singapore in 2000. Its motto is “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted” (Aesop). It’s having a positive ripple effect, which is thrilling to take cognisance of.

My husband and I eat at a local restaurant regularly and have our own waitress called Fortunate. Our relationship has got to a stage where we hug one another hello and goodbye and eagerly look forward to our weekly interaction. Her name couldn’t be more apt as we are fortunate to have developed this attachment. She simply gives off a wonderful, sincere warmth and it rubs off on all those around her.

Kindness has the following spin-offs:

• it is infectious;

• it increases productivity; and

• it is an antidote to stress and depression.

“If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.” — The Dalai Lama.

• Websites to visit:

• Eve Hemming is a local educationalist.

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