If you are like me, sometimes you can feel overwhelmed by the many, big issues in the world (or even issues more close to home) and unsure how you can make an impact. So I wanted to share with you a lovely idea I heard today – Little Acts of Kindness on Radio National. This is an idea I think we can all embrace.
Hopefully we’ve all experienced instances when someone has done something lovely and unexpected. Maybe it has been as simple as calling out to let you know you’ve left a shopping bag behind. Maybe it has been lending something – a textbook, an appliance, even a car – when that has been needed. Maybe it’s been providing advice and connections, when you haven’t known where to turn.
Radio National’s Life Matters program has been reading out examples of these sorts of actions all week. When I listened to some of the examples given, I thought how fortunate I’ve been. There have been many, many times that people have shown great generosity to my family and me. Often these were simple acts, not too demanding on the person doing them, but they made such an impact.
A series of kindness actions I won’t forget
I will never forget my wonderful next door neighbour, when our second child was born. My daughter, though much loved and very cute, was also very challenging (we soon learned that we were not necessarily naturally great parents: we just had an easy first born child!) Number Two refused to sleep at night for well over a year; she had colic for the first few months of her life, every evening from about 4.30pm until 11pm (screaming constantly during this time period), she was a big feeder (ow, the breast feeding hurt and was draining, especially when a lot was subsequently thrown up. So depressing). Despite this, she was thriving – she was just, very often, very grumpy. And she would let us know. Constantly.
My beautiful neighbour would periodically ring us (she could hear the screaming through our shared wall, but didn’t want to disturb any attempts at a routine by coming around), with an offer to take our baby so I could be with our son, or go for a walk by myself, or spend time with our son (who was pretty patient, but toddlers can only put up with so much). And, for several months, she would drop around a meal – for now, or later – which was such a godsend.
We had wonderful support from friends and family too, and I don’t want to underplay that. I am extremely grateful for everything they did. But part of what makes my next door neighbour’s actions special were:
1) They were unexpected.
2) They were simple actions (or so she told me). When I said I felt guilty for taking her time – she reassured me that these were things she could do without a HUGE effort. She was home anyway and was happy to play with a baby – especially one who would put on a happier face for company (ah, my sneaky little baby!). Plus, for her, it was little trouble to double the meal she was making for her family.
Now, I know these actions would not be straightforward for everyone, but I believe her when she says that they were manageable for her.
I’m emphasising these two points because I believe they are really important lessons if we too would like to reach out and help others. We don’t need to only focus on big acts which can seem too scary, or hard, or time consuming (although that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about doing some things that challenge us, if it will help others). But we can also have positive impacts through smaller acts too.
If we pay attention to other people’s needs, we are likely to find things we can do:
- That can be a big help, or that can lift someone’s spirits or faith in other people
- That may be unexpected – that they don’t think we are obliged to do*
- That we have the resources, or abilities, or insights, to do with kindness rather than with resentment because we can do them willingly.
*Actions that a person perceives you are doing because you are obliged to may not be experienced as uplifting as unexpected acts, and therefore may not be as encouraging for those who are struggling with challenges in life. However – don’t stop doing things that are kind and helpful to someone, just because you’re worried that they will think you are only doing them because you have to! I’m just making the point that they may fall into a different category to these ‘Little acts of kindness’.
What’s the basis for ‘Little Acts of Kindness’?
Yes, the term is not new, but this iteration is, I think.
Radio National is seeking to collate examples of what it calls ‘little acts of kindness’ on its webpage (see Facebook/Another for #ABCLittleActs for #Mental). I’m including my neighbour’s actions on the site.
According to Radio National, ‘Acts of kindness make us feel good. When life’s tough small caring gestures can be like a lifeline; giving you the spark to move forward.’ As such, ‘By the end of the week we’re going to have a crowd-sourced compendium of ways you can save someone’s day’. Wouldn’t that be a great source to have at your fingertips?
Can you think of some little acts of kindness that you’ve experienced? If so, please share with Radio National (see the links above) by the end of this week – it would be great to see a really solid compendium of ideas!
Does this spur you on to show (or continue to show) small acts of kindness to others?
Note – the initiative of Radio National is part of a broader Mental Health awareness week running across ABC Television and Radio. In turn, it is a response to World Mental Health Day, which is on this Saturday, 10 October (no, I wasn’t aware this day existed either). World Mental Health Day is ‘a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy’. Mental Health Australia is leading the awareness campaign in Australia, which has three objectives:
- Encourage help seeking behaviour
- Reduce the stigma associated with mental illness
- Foster connectivity throughout communities
All important aspects to alleviate the challenges for those who struggle with mental health issues, I think!