Sunday, 21 January 2018

Cool to Be Kind

The other day I accidentally watched a video online (I'd been watching the Michael McIntyre Brits Abroad clip for probably the fifth time this week and it automatically moved on before I could stop it) about online bullying. Psychologists and charity workers on there were saying that a lot of the problem stems from the fact that it's not cool to be kind. 

And that thought genuinely made me feel sick. 

Hopefully anybody who knows me will know that I am a real advocate of kindness. In fact, last year at a work party somebody, out of the blue, told me that kindness is one of the key features of my personality, and that that is rare. Probably the nicest thing anybody has ever said to or about me, and a comment that I will hold onto and whip out for years to come, every time I'm overcome with self doubt, or embarrassment at something I said in 2009. Telling me that was a huge act of kindness in itself- one that I am eternally grateful for. 

But of course I'm not always kind. 

Quite a lot of the time I'm not, actually. I'm a human being, after all, and quite often can't see past the end of my own nose. But I am never intentionally cruel, and don't think I know many people at all who are. 

I shed a few tears watching this video- for the children suffering, for the parents dealing with devastated kids, for my baby who's no doubt one day going to have to deal with a world where kindness isn't cool but bullying via social media is, and of frustration that this is the world we live in. 

I'm not sure whether kindness was cool when I was at school, but I've never cared about being cool (thankfully, I'd be miserable if I did care) but I have spent a lot of my adult life grateful that I didn't have social media to deal with as a teenager. As if that time isn't difficult enough. 

I'm normally not particularly cynical- but the facts and figures on this video clip of This Morning were hard to argue with, and it terrified me. 

So I thought that I would pay extra attention to the kind things going on around me and share them with you, in an attempt to remind myself (and maybe you, if you need a reminder) that there is kindness around us all the time, and there is absolutely no reason that it should be uncool...

1) Train Adventures

Today I was brave enough to take Squirt on the train alone (and I breastfed her on there- it's not just public kindness I'm convinced should be the norm, oh no) and whilst I was waiting at the station I was immediately relieved to realise that a group of Irish women were waiting for the same train. Now I don't like to stereotype but in my experience of living in Ireland generally I find the Irish to be the kings of kindness. As a nation, they are just about the nicest people in the world. 

Sure enough, as soon as the train pulled in they gathered around me. 

"Would you prefer it if we went on before you, and helped you from there, or after you, and helped you that way? Or a bit of both?" 

Not helping me wasn't even an option. 

On the way home it was snowing. It hadn't been snowing when I left so I was absolutely freezing in my soft coat and inappropriate shoes, and Squirt was snug in her snowsuit, three blankets, foot warmer and rain cover, and so naturally was absolutely furious that she wasn't out in the fun with me. Going anywhere with a screaming baby is never fun, but as I climbed aboard the packed train with her cries immediately filling the carriage I was ready for some classic British tutting. 

Instead what I got was reassuring smiles, and I cannot tell you how appreciated they were. 

2) Other People's Stories

On Friday night my dad and brother came over for dinner. 

What an excellent opportunity to fulfil my new year resolutions, I thought. I can cook for them from scratch (resolution 1: learn to cook), and I'll have to be organised to have it all sorted on time for them to get here after work and immediately eat before the First Aid course we were doing at seven (resolution 2: be more organised). 

(Actually, in the interest of being kind, may I take this moment to promote Daisy First Aid. Jennie came to our flat and ran the relaxed but hugely informative and enjoyable course. And she's so lovely. I was listening but I did also spend a lot of time thinking about how pretty her hair was. Anyway.) 

I chose a recipe specifically because it was one that I could make during the day and heat up when they arrived so that everywhere could be tidy and ready for the course as soon as dinner was finished. I made a list of ingredients on my new handy magnetic post-it note board that lives on the fridge and felt like Mary Berry herself (who I assume is highly organised as well as being an excellent cook) as I peeled it from the top, popped it into my brand new pram organiser and glided into town, incredibly smug. I posted some birthday cards on my way (a week in advance, that's right) and as I headed home I had this beautiful vision of my family around the kitchen table, with a big bowl of salad in the middle and a hot, steaming dish of delicious loveliness beside it. 

I quickly realised that I don't own a big salad bowl. So that image made a swift exit. 

Then I realised that somehow, when I was making the list on my fancy life-changing-fridge-magnet, I had managed to leave off butternut squash. Which was the key ingredient. 

I couldn't go back, because by this point Squirt was screamingand when she gets into that state there really is no ignoring it. So I asked Dale to buy it on his way home from work. No problem. 

Dale got delayed at work by over an hour. Butternut squash is hard to cut, and took way longer than I had planned. We didn't have any saucepans big enough for the amount of pasta the recipe said I needed, and by the time Dale stuck his head round the door to see how I was getting on my hair was scraped back in a 'mum bun' smelling of burnt, I was covered in sweat, flour, and squash pips, the kitchen was covered in macaroni, and I was shouting some choice words at the utensil drawer because that one that drains pasta (pasta drainer? I mean is that actually what it's for?) was nowhere to be found and I f...lipping needed it. 

So I was not quite the glorious hostess I had been going for. 

But it's only January. 

I'll get there. 

Anyway, I saw two of my best friends yesterday and I told them this story, just absolutely gutted that I'm such a failure as a mum and a wife and a hostess when what I was trying to do was so simple. 

They didn't laugh, or overwhelm me with insincere 'oh nooo, you're doing a great job!' They just replied ' too' and told their own stories. And that was so kind. 

One friend was sitting there in her always-immaculate living room with her perfect hair and her home made pesto ready to go with the sea bass that she was cooking. 

The other one is pregnant and glowing, with a bag of snacks and toys for her 1 year old beside her whilst she told us about her new business. 

And even they had stories about feeling incompetent and the ridiculous things they had done. They didn't have to tell them, and if they hadn't it would never even occurred to me that they ever do silly things like me. 

So kind, and so appreciated. 

3) Jiminy Cricket

My friend Jiminy Cricket is just about the kindest person in the whole world. 

She always thinks of extra lovely things to do- and seems to genuinely think nothing of it. 

But the thing I love most about her is not the flowers she sends, or the little surprises she organises, or even that she drives to me even though it's very much my turn to drive to her because she knows how disproportionately terrified I am of putting Squirt in the car. 

My favourite thing about Jiminy Cricket is that I can tell her anything. 

Absolutely anything at all. 

I truly believe that all human beings are judgemental and that's completely normal, but honestly Jiminy never reacts in a judgemental way to anything that I tell her, and I don't think I've ever heard her say a bad word about anybody else. 

She might be the extreme of kindness. 

But it makes her blooming wonderful to be around. 

Which is why I don't understand this whole kindness isn't cool thing. Surely everyone would rather spend their time with kind people? 

I always say that to be friends with Dale you have to be incredibly, super, wonderfully kind, because he just doesn't bother with people who aren't nice. (Unlike me. I have a pathological need to be liked. Even by not nice people. Which is ridiculous, I know, but probably quite common.) 

My parents are both incredibly kind, and based on pictures of them circa 1982 I actually think they were cool teenagers. Perhaps it was in fashion to be nice then?

In all honesty I like to think that being cruel has never been fashionable- especially for adults-I like to think that ultimately people are super and that evil hits the headlines for a reason- because it's worth reporting. Because it's not the norm. 

I am surrounded by endlessly kind people, and even now am feeling guilty that I haven't mentioned...everyone I know. 

All the same, please look out for the kindness around you, please be the kindness around you, and please feel free to pass your magical stories onto me. 

And any stories about cooking disasters that might make me feel better. 

And for goodness sake the official name of that pasta scooping thing. 


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