For want of kindness


I missed a doctors appointment this week, it was entirely down to an oversight on my part for reasons that don’t matter. The next day I visited the health centre to apologise and to make another appointment. The receptionist was very gracious, not a trace of impatience or frustration that my oversight had put unnecessary strain on a practice which I know is stretched to the limit.

I felt strongly enough about this that I asked the receptionist if I could make a donation to the practice to at least put something back for the time and expertise, cost and inconvenience, I had unintentionally caused both them and my fellow patients.

The receptionist said that they had no facility to accept donations, but suggested I talk to my GP about it, which I will do, but what astonished me was as she said this she teared up.

I also spoke to friend yesterday who had called me for some advice. In the course of the conversation he told me about a recent visit to A&E and how under stress the medical staff were and yet how amazing they were. As he left the hospital he thanked the nurse who had looked after him and he was taken aback when her eyes filled up. She was grateful for a kind word, something which she said was rare and often quite the reverse.

These are just two on the hoof moments but they say something to me. Both these situations bespeak of people working hard under pressure and wanting of simple kindness and understanding.

In a world being torn apart by people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, it would seem that this is a world in want of kindness, thought and consideration, and, here’s the rub, these are within everyone’s power to give for free.

Governments are selling out to the economic forces of greed, the so called free markets, and far too many of us are feeling the strain of heartless economics that are creating an ever expanding underclass of impoverished people living precariously. Is it any wonder that people who are forced to go to food banks for the basics of survival are often reduced to tears, not just in gratitude for a bite of food to eat, but by the kindness they encounter?

When ‘I, Daniel Blake’ was shown at the Cannes festival audiences were reduced to tears. These were not the tears of goofed out sentimentality, but tears of empathy, anger, identification, of being moved by the suffering of others and unnecessary cruelty.

Ken Loach’s film is not a Hollywood blockbuster dripping in sentimental romance and tear jerking lurv, it is a documentary which hits hard. That said, what also comes across is the care with which it has been written, performed and made. I have not yet seen the film, but its impact is clear.

Readers may be aware that I have just begun therapy to help me break my self imposed isolation of over 20 years and deal with issues I have struggled with all my life. I have elected to pay for this therapy because I want a therapy that is compatible and sympathetic to me and my circumstances. That is going to involve some fancy belt tightening on my part, but I am happy to do that because being isolated has ceased to be a haven of safety and become an intolerable burden to me. I’ll come to why in a moment, but what I must say is that the money I pay for this is to cover the obvious needs we all have as a perfectly reasonable contribution towards the material needs of my therapist. What that money does not pay for, other in the most tangential sense, is the expertise, care, kindness, consideration and the focused intention and attention of my therapist to work with me towards achieving my aims and desires in life.

The money I pay her is not a reflection of her dedication or years of study and practice which have given her the skills she has today. To me, her skills are priceless. Only in the most simplistic sense am I paying for her time, what I am getting is a whole lot more on which it would be hard (if not impossible) to place a value in mere monetary terms.

I recall a story of a woman watching an artist finishing a sketch of seagulls flying. She was awed by the skill with which he captured their movement and grace in simple pencil lines and she asked him how long it had taken him, to which he replied, ’35 years’. The story may or may not be true, but how much is a picture worth if we think in terms of the skills acquired over such a length of time and the love he has for his craft?

So why am I in therapy? What is it about? Whether I want to join a fracking crew of protectors or get active in protecting our NHS I want to free myself to do that. Right now I am not free.

But I have something else weighing on me. I want to either join or start a kindness project. We need many kinds of revolution in many areas of life, but it seems to me that we also need a revolution of kindness and, for me, that is a big fucking deal! That is something worth living for and doing.

We are up against intractable and implacable enemies and I’ve lived with the anguish and pain they cause. I may not know how to tear them down, as much as they richly deserve it, but starting at our ordinary level of life and living, I can be part of something that lifts people up and it is the freedom to do that that I want. To engage.

All the people who have truly impacted my life and made me who I am today have been people of extraordinary kindness. I could say they’ve branded my soul with it, it’s something I cannot ignore, it is so powerful in me and the love I have for them is for all the inspiration that lives inside me now that has been their gift to me in life. These are people who have helped me deal with the hardest things in my life, whatever skills I have learnt have been learnt under the umbrella of incredible kindness and gentleness of others in dealing with, what was for me, life threatening trauma.

Above all, kindness is a gift, it can’t be bought, it is a bottomless well innate in all of us, although it may need some help in learning to share it when people are trapped in fear and the best help is being on the receiving end of it. It has certainly helped this soul to heal from the terrors that bound me.

A world without kindness is not fit for life.

KOG. 25 January 2017


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