Let's start this blog post with a little poetry, as a pause for reflection.
A Dash of Kindness
Kindness pours from a comfy cup,
One with a chip or a crack or two,
For it has seen the worst of times,
Kindness feels like a deep pile rug,
By a warm log fire as your toes sink in,
Makes no judgement of your crimes.
Kindness flows like a powerful stream,
It can take your breath away,
As it cleanses and renews,
Kindness mends with its sewing thread,
A tattered box of odds and ends,
Helps you make do and re-use.
Kindness follows no pattern set,
Simply wears its 'Boho' style,
For pretence is not its thing,
Kindness acts but it doesn't know
That its precious charm, is simplicity,
Showing new paths to begin.
Kindness works with a single word,
Or a thought, or action small,
As it doesn't look for fame,
Kindness is what it needs to be,
When it sees a space that it has to fill,
Treating everyone the same.
Karen Honnor - 2020 Diary of a Dizzy Peri
I posted this poem on Twitter last weekend, on World Kindness Day. Did you know about that day? Perhaps you missed it among all the noise of life. That wouldn't be surprising when we are bombarded with such a constant stream of information and most days seem to celebrate something - products, worthy causes, charities and more. Our attention is drawn to those shouting the loudest on social media, or waving the brightest coloured flags. Yet sometimes the small, often unnoticed details are important. They can be the true gems of life, especially where little acts of kindness are concerned. I pondered this when posting this poem to mark the day.
Sure, great things are achieved and many helped by large corporate donations, or grand projects that we read about or see on news feeds. But often, kindness is in the everyday, the uncelebrated, the quiet moments that pass most of us by, though they may make the difference to an individual's day in significant ways. Actions speak louder than words, it's an old phrase but one that still holds true, in many ways. Kind words have their place, of course, but we often need more than that to make a real impact. Indeed, I find it shallow to see hashtags like #bekind plastered across social media, in response to a tragic event, when only a few days later the same people are replacing such statements with calls to condemn or cancel others. True compassion seems hard to find in the current world.
I decided to write this blog post, as I have had all these thoughts circling around my head since realising it was World Kindness Day. I have only been aware of the day over the last few years, but I now discover that it has been in place since 1998 and is actually an international holiday in many countries. Its purpose is “to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” At a time when it seems so much easier to find the elements which divide us, more readily than those which unite us, days that return our focus to our common threads have surely got to be worth our consideration.
Reading about this day, I was reminded of something that I wrote a couple of years ago. In time, this piece ended up forming a chapter within my first book and is both a tribute to a dear friend and a celebration of friendship and kindness. I re-visit it now in the excerpt below as food for thought, with the hope that we can all find a little kindness in our lives.
Kind Hearts and Karaoke
The seeds of friendship can be found in the most unlikely places and, when nurtured well, can grow into a thing of beauty, strength and compassion. Back in our playground days, we fell in and out of friendship frequently according to who wanted to join in the latest game or craze with us: French skipping with the athletic girls, swinging clackers and trying not to knock your teeth out, joining in bundles on the playing field in games of British Bulldog or racing to complete a Rubik's cube. The rules of friendship were somewhat blurred at the time and on the whole, falling out one day could be repaired and forgotten about by the end of the week. Sometimes, amongst all this you might find a best friend and a few people kept these for a long time - perhaps even counting a playground pal amongst their adult circle of friends.
My experience has been that I have a couple of friends that were made at secondary school or university, who I keep in touch with and others, who have become friends through work circles. However, it is my hobby which has brought me to a place of developing friendships that run a little deeper. A weekly drama group which combines a collection of people of different ages and backgrounds in a common goal to rehearse, perform and support each other in their hobby. Something about the process of drama is inspirational. People who would never normally meet in other social circles, cross-generational and with all different talents, working together for the common goal of putting on a show. I have seen people go from shy, anxious individuals perhaps coming along to help out backstage, to standing proudly in the spotlight giving everything they have to their performance, their self-confidence soaring.
Friends I have made through this group have been there for me through personal tragedy, difficult days at work and stressful situations, as well as being part of celebrations, fun times and achievements. Perhaps there is something about being part of a creative process together that helps the social bonding - sharing the workload involved in putting on a show, learning your lines and moves together and standing as one, as a cast on stage to receive the audience response. It is true that friendships have grown here over the last decade or so and the group is such that we both work and play together - choosing to meet up outside the constraints of weekly rehearsals, with karaoke featuring often as an opportunity for a good laugh as we sing, dance and - let's be honest - drink together.
Within the long and complex process of putting on a show, we all have different strengths and weaknesses but I have been touched by the small acts of kindness shown to one another to help out with a task, go over a scene where someone may be struggling and mostly, in valuing the efforts that each of us are making. In fact, it is at drama that I was inspired by the kindest lady I have had the privilege to know. A gentler, more unassuming person you would be hard pushed to find and they joy of seeing her go from a timid chorus member to commanding the stage, dancing with a feather boa the 'Hey, Big Spender' is a memory I shall treasure forever.
To look back on this highlight is to confront thoughts of her untimely passing just four days before she was due to join us on stage, for our annual pantomime. A devastating blow to the group to lose such a core part of the group and such a special lady, it was a remarkable measure of the strength of the group working together to support each other in a way we never felt possible. The old adage is that the show must go on, and indeed her family were adamant that the group should do exactly that, but they were the hardest performances we have ever done.
the group has moved on in many ways since, with new members who never had the opportunity to know her, taking centre stage. This is rightly so, as a group is more than any one individual part of it and the nature of this type of group is that it changes and develops with each new venture it begins. Though the best bits of her personality linger with those of us who shared a stage with her and there are times when I have felt that she has joined us back there - who knows?
I did indeed lose a special friend and I discovered depths of character amongst other friends, in dealing with this. This is why the friendship I refer to has a strength and meaning beyond that of those playground past times. But by referring to this dark episode, I do not mean to belittle the contribution that others have made to my life - others who have walked into my group and life since this time. For a friend is not measured by the length of time that they have stood by your side but rather by the impact they have had upon you. Some friends tread a path together tentatively, gradually growing in their shared experiences to find themselves in a place where they realise just quite how much they need each other. Some friends have a presence that is more immediate, taking you by surprise in how quickly you find yourself seeking their opinions, valuing their advice and noticing how aspects of your life are better for having known them.
It all comes down to kindness - in a busy world where everyone has to be somewhere, meeting a deadline, sorting out a list of chores and responsibilities, it can feel as if everyone is caught up in their own selfish endeavours. So when you find someone who can put that on hold, even for a moment, to do something for another person, show a little kindness of heart, then that is worth celebrating. I am very lucky to have found several people who are happy to share their kind hearts and karaoke evenings with me, and long may that continue.
Excerpt from Finding My Way 2019