World Kindness Day is celebrated every year on 13 November. And this unbelievably strange year, it also falls on a Friday. Friday 13 November, 2020. I think the Universe has a sense of humour!
Kindness is one of my values
I love thinking about what words really mean.
The dictionary says simply “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”.
Wikipedia goes a bit further. It names the above and includes ‘concern for others, without having an expectation of praise or reward’.
Historian Barbara Taylor and psychoanalyst Adam Phllips mention that “real kindness changes people in the doing of it, often in unpredictable ways” (In their book On Kindness, 2009).
In my experience, kindness does not only change the giver, but also the receiver.
In my own reflection on ‘kindness’ today, here are some instances that kindness shown towards me had a positive, long-lasting psychological and emotional impact:
In 2018, I had to have a laser eye procedure and was absolutely terrified.
The male consultant knew and understood this. He took me into the laser room, and called in a female nurse who worked in the eye department. She had also recently had the same eye procedure I was due to have. He gave us 15 minutes to have a conversation, so I could ask all my questions and feel as comforted as possible.
As long as I live, I will never forget his kind act. It made me believe in the kind hearts and intentions of medical people, in an environment where things can feel pretty harsh and terrifying.
In that same year, I had to go for a biopsy. I was so frightened again.
The procedure was taking longer than anticipated. I started to feel awful, sweaty, nauseous, and like I was going to pass out. Someone stood with me to just make me comfortable, held ice packs to my neck and forehead to calm down the nervous reaction, all while reminding me in soothing tones that they were right there with me.
I will never forget that care and consideration.
Another time, another biopsy. Fear and panic again.
This time I had to lie face-down, neck twisted in a funny position. A nurse came to stand right by my eyes, where I could see her, and asked what she could do to make me more comfortable. I asked her to hold my hand, and that’s what she did through the entire thing. She talked me through it, asked questions so I could take my attention off what they were doing, and helped me feel less scared. Looking
I’ll never forget her and the way she showed such kindness and care.
Another eye examination, more anxiety.
The more junior person called her senior consultant when she found out how nervous I was. The senior consultant was extremely skilled at calming me. She helped me to drop my shoulders, to focus on her earring, asking questions in soothing tones, reminding me to answer (because then she knew I was breathing).
I’ll never forget their kindness, and that they didn’t make me feel foolish for being nervous.
In medical situations, I find kindness an absolute gift.
Medical personnel often forget how terrifying it can be for us ‘mortals’ to experience the poking and prodding, tests, instruments, the sounds, the smells… everything completely unfamiliar and unsafe.
Kindness in the medical world, and where trauma is involved, can have a profound effect on the nervous system.
Today, I am grateful for all sorts of kind acts that have been shown to me, in the most unexpected ways. The care and concern for my emotional wellbeing, is what I will remember forever.
The most memorable is that I wasn’t expecting the care, consideration, and kindness. I was expecting either:
- impatience and judgment about my fears, (that has happened before),
- or someone to tell me “You’ll be fine!” (as if saying that has ever helped anyone),
- or a dismissive response (“You don’t have to feel nervous, nothing bad is going to happen!”)
Fears do not disappear from thinking logically.
For instance “Others have survived this, so can I.” Fear is there to keep us safe. It sits in a different part of the brain, where we have less access to logic and reason.
When someone shows us kindness and compassion, it instantly soothes our nervous system. That is a priceless gift.
Kindness, for me, is the opposite of judgment, criticism, impatience, and irritation. It comes close to empathy and compassion. And it can work miracles.
Where have you been grateful for kindness shown to you?