Why Kindness Matters?
The last few months have been difficult for everyone. We are living in unprecedented times. Our lives have been restricted in ways which we could never have imagined. Many people are missing social contact and some are experiencing loneliness and isolation. Many of us are worried about the health of our friends, family and work colleagues.
We worry about elderly and other vulnerable people, including those who are living alone and we experience a sense of sadness for those who have lost loved ones. It has been and continues to be challenging.
However, despite the challenges there has also been a sense of hope. We have witnessed a strengthening of the community through numerous acts of kindness. Teachers and school leaders have supported their communities through delivering essential supplies to families, caring for vulnerable children and children of key workers and through simply ‘checking in’ with them on a regular basis. Friends and neighbours have delivered food and other essential items to elderly and other vulnerable people. People have supported other members of their community by sharing their belongings with them. Street parties were held to celebrate VE day while maintaining social distancing rules. Every Thursday evening at 8pm the nation has clapped to celebrate National Health Service staff and other key workers. We have been thankful for the supermarket workers who have continued to stock shelves, disinfect trolleys and work on the checkouts. At the same time, we are grateful for all workers, including those in banks, who have continued to support us by placing their own lives at risk. We are grateful to the care and compassion that care workers, doctors, nurses, delivery workers, teachers and others have demonstrated during these unprecedented times. All have demonstrated acts of incredible kindness and put the needs of other before their own needs and those of their families.
We have demonstrated incredible kindness to others in other ways too. We have ‘checked in’ more with our friends via social media, text messaging and Skype. We have sent people kind messages, videos and funny GIFS to try to make other people smile. We have offered to collect items and deliver them for people who have not been able to leave their house. In short, we have drawn on our social capital to get us through these difficult times.
We have also been kind to the environment. The reduction in traffic and footfall has allowed nature to flourish and partially reverse the damage to the environment that we have caused over many decades. Many people have connected or re-connected with nature and this has supported their mental health. Those of us who have animals have appreciated spending more time with them. We have appreciated them more and have spent more time caring for them. We have shown them more kindness.
We have also strengthened our connections with other nations. We all know that, despite our differences, we are all in this together. Covid-19 has created a stronger sense of global community. Nations have come together to support each other by sending essential supplies to other countries. We have witnessed international acts of kindness, including developing a global response to thanking others who have put their lives at risk.
We have all experienced multiple and multidimensional transitions during the last few months. We have adapted to learning and teaching online. We have adapted to social distancing in public. We have adapted to staying at home. We have adapted to interacting with fewer people. We have adapted to our social lives being restricted and we have found different ways of staying connected. However, we know that these transitions for some have not been positive. We have been worried about the impact of isolation on domestic violence and mental health. We know that not all relationships are healthy and that lockdown has exposed some people to even greater risk. The long-term impact of lockdown on the elderly and other vulnerable people still needs to be calculated but we are already witnessing some detrimental short-term impacts.
We know that it will be a long time before life returns to normal. In the meantime, we all have to adapt to a ‘new normal’. As we move forward, the continuation of the kindness that we have witnessed during lockdown will become even more critical. Some people will have lost loved ones to Covid-19. Others will be experiencing poor mental health as a result of social isolation and continuing fears about their own health. The kindness that is offered to us by friends, families, neighbours and the wider community will help us to stay resilient and adapt to the ‘new normal’, whatever that may look like. We should never again take things for granted. We have learned that things can change at the drop of a hat. We are stronger together than apart and what unites us is far more important than what divides us. Let us continue to be kind to people, the environment and to animals. We need them all.
Jonathan is Professor of Inclusive Education. His research focuses on LGBTQ+ inclusion and mental health. He is a researcher, teacher educator and qualified teacher.