OPINION | Needed: Kindness

The last time it was Friday 13th, it was an ominous one. It was Friday, 13 March. The Friday before that Sunday, 15 March, when our president declared a state of disaster. To be followed a week later with the announcement of Lockdown Level 5, starting on 26 March.

That 15 March speech still reverberates as our very own “Beware the Ides of March”. The Ides of March, 15 March, was made famous in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar, with the soothsayer warning the emperor to “Beware the Ides of March”.

Which did not help, as he was assassinated on 15 March. One of the assassins was one his allies, Brutus, which in turn led to the “et tu, Brute” phrase when a close ally is part of your undoing.

But let’s move from our own last gloomy Friday 13th and our Ides of March to a happier Friday 13th, namely Friday November 13: World Kindness Day.

And don’t we just need a bit of kindness. Or rather, for the sake of humanity, make that a super-duper dose of kindness, what with a pandemic that has deepened existing societal cracks into Rift Valleys, with accompanying human and economic tragedies.

Add to this already existing mental strain and unbearable insecurities, the mountains of corruption, state capture, as well as left and right extremism, and racism. No wonder it is just too much for already suffering human beings to bear.

And if that is not enough, throw in what is playing out on the world stage: An instable global political and social order, led by a destabilised, divided America due to a (now thankfully outvoted) president that demonised everything not partial to him. Which in turn led to a bizarre, brutal Trumpian dystopia in which everything and everyone could be offended with no sign of human kindness whatsoever, forget about presidential statesmanship.

And then, still add to that, two overarching global factors: the pandemic that has become politicised, plus the radicalisation of society in almost every respect.

It’s Stress on Steroids. Yes, in capital letters.

Schtum, and utterly fatigued, we stumble from one incredulous world event to the next. While silently sending out an SOS: please, please, we need some kindness. Some gentleness, some compassion, some sympathy, some kind-heartedness.

Please, can the kindness index move up a little? Please, can we all calm down and give our so frayed nerve endings some relief?

World Kindness Day could not come one day too soon. And seeing that 13 November is on a Friday, let’s supercharge it with positivity and forget about those doomsday superstitions around Friday 13th.

Let’s make sure this Friday 13th is our best Friday 13th in a long, long time.

So, switch on your kindness sensors and see how just one small gesture of kindness to a fellow human being will start an avalanche of kindness. Or show some kindness to a four-legged creature – Covid has also exposed our animal friends to the deepest depths of unkindness.

The World Kindness Movement was launched in 1998, after a number of “kindness NGOs” gathered in 1997 in Japan. Not affiliated to any religious or political movement, its mission is to “create a kinder world by inspiring individuals and nations towards greater kindness”.

Kindness therapy

This year’s theme is simply “Acts of Kindness”. And the smallest of gesture will help. The benefit? It will make you feel much better, because it is known that despite waves of grief and despair breaking in their ruthless violence over you, when you pick yourself up and do something good for someone else, it is actually you that benefits most. So apply some kindness therapy to yourself while you make the world a little bit better for someone else.

Because kindness is all about the positive power of that common thread that binds us, compassion. Make kindness your life philosophy – it bridges all those just too human polarisations that are caused by race, religion, politics, gender, class, education, and nationality.

In fact, the World Kindness Movement wants the United Nations to have World Kindness Day officially recognised. And doesn’t our world need such a “Declaration for World Kindness”.

It is argued that simple acts of kindness – small things, all do-able by you and me – can have a huge impact on the general feeling of despair engulfing our poor planet.

Of course, the kindness movement starts with you. And fortunately, there are so many things you can do. Imagine how kindness will vibrate around our globe this Friday if you do just one act of kindness towards someone else.

Fortunately, the ideas are as many as there are souls upon this earth – all 7,8 billion of us.

Here are just some: You can get some friends together to pick up litter (remember: 1,5 m apart). Or leave a note of kindness in a restroom – it might just be what the next person needs. Google “kindness quotes”, and you’ll find too many to choose from.

Make little cards from the ones you like: Maya Angelou’s “Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud”, or the Dalai Lama’s “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Or: “We rise by lifting others”, or “Kindness begins with understanding we all struggle”.

Other ways of simply trying to be kind? An easy one is “paying forward” a cup of coffee at your coffee take-away so that the next customer gets a nice surprise.

Or, well, refrain from posting something hurtful. Too many of us do it just too many times. In that sense social media is the most unsocial media there ever have been, bringing out homo sapiens’s unkindest asocial behaviour.

Another kindness act: Bake a batch of cupcakes (yes, you can use that tried and tested Lockdown-banana bread recipe), and deliver them to your neighbours, or, if you’re lucky enough that you can go back to the office, to colleagues, or hand out to municipal workers if it is bin day, or take them to your friendly vet. And tell all of them: Today is World Kindness Day.

Most of all: Let’s make every day Kindness Day. Just as we should not only be aware of no violence against women and children during the campaign of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children (starting on 25 November), but every single day, we should also, please, not reserve kindness to one World Kindness Day.

So, let’s generate kindness and see how it starts to generate itself, especially in a divided, divisive society. We need empathy, we need goodness, we need compassion. We are human beings: Our hearts beat to the rhythm of kindness. Start your own Kindness Movement today.

Lizette Rabe is professor at Stellenbosch University and founder of the non-profit Ithemba Foundation. Ithemba means hope and has two public benefit goals: to raise awareness of the importance of mental health, and to support research. Ithemba’s registration number is 2012/171250/08 and its SARS PBO Number 930/048/019.
Image credit: Dee Copper and Wild, Unsplash
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