This blog is primarily about health. Pretty much everything I write in it is designed to help individuals make more informed choices about how to improve the quality and quantity of their lives (should they so wish). However, I recognise that not all of live is about health. And so today’s post is a bit of a departure from the norm. It’s Christmas day today, and this day is traditionally one associated with a spirit of good will and kindness. This is all good, of course, and it occurs to me that it’s not a bad thing for kindness to be extended throughout the year.
So, today, I want to write about an event that I recently witnessed that might in some way inspire some of us to showing fellow humans (or animals) some unconditional generosity or kindness. The event in question occurred a week ago in London’s underground ‘tube’ train system. I was at Camden Town station, changing platforms. I was walking up some steps separated in the middle by a railing. I, and plenty of others, were walking up on the right hand side. It was busy and slow-going. The left hand side of the stairs (for people coming down) was pretty much empty.
Up in front of me I noticed a young man vaulting the railing in the middle of the stairway. Once over the railing, he began running up the stairs. At first, I thought he was in a rush and jumped the railing so that he could move more quickly up the less busy side of the stairway. In reality, though, he made a bee-line for a woman who was near the top of the stairway and was attempting to negotiate a buggy (and toddler) down the stairs. He lifted the front of the buggy, allowing the woman to make her way down the stairwell much more easily.
On one level, you could argue this was a relatively small gesture. I see it differently, though. While this man may have inconvenienced himself by a minute or so, it seems likely that the woman he helped was hugely grateful for his assistance. Her day was, I suspect, enriched by the experience. Maybe so was his. Mine certainly was. And perhaps the same is true for many others who witnessed this act of thoughtfulness and kindness.
So, this event got me thinking that perhaps even appear to be ‘small’ gestures of kindness may have a bigger impact than one might expect. I also wondered whether committing to exhibiting more random acts of kindness might be a worthwhile New Year’s resolution. Because the reality is that such resolutions are usually about bettering our lives. For instance, three years ago I wrote about how we might create more time in our lives to accommodate whatever healthy habits we have an ambition of cementing into everyday life. But how much better all-round might it be to put the focus on bettering others’ lives, rather than just our own?
So, I know what my New Year resolution is going to be this year: to find an excuse to be kind each and every day, however ‘bad’ my own personal day may be going. At this stage I have no idea what forms these acts of kindness might take. I am, however, genuinely excited by the possibilities. A lot more excited, I think, than I have been when contemplating previous resolutions such as resuming running, stopping smoking or practising a daily yoga routine.