FAMILY / MEET THE AUTHOR
It’s lovely and so simple. Or if you have younger children at home during the day they could make a welcome home banner for older siblings when they come back from school.
"People love getting unexpected post and can find it very moving. It’s a big treat for children too"
> to seek out opportunities. I got into the habit of looking for things I could do.
For example, I wrote nice reviews online for local businesses and books I had enjoyed. I went litter picking and tidied up the park, helped someone carry their shopping, and gave people flowers at Euston station.
I found that people were quite vulnerable and told me stories about kindness that they had experienced. I felt very connected to the world, and to other people. I felt like a “defender of hope”.
What is your favourite random act of kindness and why? In general, the most kind thing you can do for someone is actively listen to them. It requires practice but it’s something you can do for anyone.
There are a couple of acts of kindness that I first did during my year that I have kept up. I live on the eighth mile of the London Marathon and every year I ask on social media for names of people running the marathon, and make posters with the names on for them to see as they run past. And on Valentine’s Day I send 50 to 120 cards out to people who are nominated on social media.
During that year I sent a card to a friend of a friend, a young man who had had a hip operation and was feeling depressed. Some time later he contacted me and said it had been life changing. I had spent quite a long time making the card and he couldn’t believe that someone he didn’t know had done that for him. We met up and had a cup of tea, and we are still friends now.
You just never know what effect the smallest thing can have.
Are we becoming more or less kind as a society and why? Hope has had a real battering of late on a global scale but on a human level, things are OK.
I actually think people are practising kindness more. There are hundreds of Facebook groups dedicated to it, with lots of projects and different activities.
I think it’s been a positive side effect of Trump and the fear he has engendered, and the divide caused by Brexit, that has made kindness and compassion rise as an active practice. Social media can have the opposite effect but it’s quite easy to change it. You can change your news feed by sharing positive stories. I’m not saying we have to live in a state of denial but you can focus on the positive and be actively kind. Don’t go down that rabbit hole and retweet that horrible story. And never, ever, be unkind.
How can we encourage our children to be more kind? One of the best ways is to act in a kind way yourself, include it in conversations (“that was really kind!”), and practise self-care.
My books for children include lots of guerrilla kindness activities, which are full of fun and mischief. One nice idea is to make little messages with your kids to pop into a friend’s or family member’s pocket for them to find later.
What would be an ideal first “good deed” for someone wanting to try their own kindness project? If you’re more of an extrovert you could phone someone out of the blue just to catch up. Introverts might like to send someone a proper handwritten letter. People love getting unexpected post and can find it very moving. It’s a big treat for children too.
It’s a win-win situation. You realise that you can do little things – write a letter, smile at a neighbour, pay someone a compliment – and it makes a real difference. You start to think of yourself as a “nice person” and you notice that there is a lot of kindness around which generally goes unreported.
You feel empowered and it turns around the narrative that people “aren’t any good”. Most people are pretty kind most of the time, and noticing kindness is beneficial for your mental health. The daily practice becomes habitual, and consciously doing it is very powerful.
MORE INSPIRATION READ Bernadette’s books for adults The Little Book of Kindness and The Little Book of Wonder include her own reflections and practical exercises to inspire you. ENCOURAGE She has also written two activity books, Do Kind, Be Nice, Spread Happy and Be The Change Make It Happen, to inspire and empower children and young people to make a difference. EXPLORE Find out more about Bernadette’s creative work at bernadetterussell.com
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2019 thegreenparent.co.uk