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Random Acts of Kindness

We are unlikely to be on the receiving end of a random act of kindness every day, let alone every week or month. This is largely because the majority of those we interact with are polite, courteous and respectful and as such there is little or no requirement to participate in a random act of kindness.

Much is lauded, quite rightly, in leadership terms about the inherent need to show kindness to others particularly in the work place in order to develop as an effective and empathic leader. Leadership is so much more than management and we are routinely encouraged to read, reflect and self evaluate in order that we can bring the best of ourselves to the role and in time bring out the best in our teams/departments/work place.

I recently helped a rather infirm passenger by carrying the case he was struggling to hoist down the stairs when we were going to board a plane. These are kind acts, yes but it takes a very special soul to carry out a random act of kindness.

Nonetheless true acts of kindness leave one almost gasping for breath and this week I was privileged to witness a true act of selflessness and thoughtfulness when one of the team recognised that a pupil did not have their own bike and so offered to bring in an old one of hers so that when the class went on a bike ride they could join in. The young person concerned was overjoyed and slightly overwhelmed and could speak of very little else for the rest of the day.

Those with the least often give the most and I have to bite my tongue sometimes when I hear how thoughtful and caring members of our team are when responding to the needs of our pupils and indeed to each other.

I make no apologies for sharing this following story which to me indicates a huge strength of character and self assuredness and has to be the single most significant act of kindness to come my way at a time when my world was falling apart.

My beloved younger sister was very ill and in all senses of the medical profession undergoing palliative care in the Western General in Edinburgh (just an aside here – little acts of kindness emanate from Wards 1 and 2 in the Western General every minute of every day…)

I was on a train from North Berwick to visit E in hospital and to meet up with family, when I had a call from Ward 2 to suggest that I should get to the hospital as quickly as possible. I replied that I was on my way, but on the train so was at the behest of Scotrail.

The hospital called again 5 minutes later with a greater sense of urgency this time. As I was the emergency contact number and they couldn’t locate Mum who had been visiting they were anxious about locating one of us. I suggested that Mum was probably in Maggie’s when the enormity of what was happening in Ward 2 and with E engulfed me.

I could no longer sit in the seat that was mid-way down the train. I had to beat a hasty retreat as soon as I could disembark and so positioned myself in the very front carriage. I’m not sure if I was crying, but certainly swallowing heart rending sobs, and obviously very anxious. I was aware that some passengers were looking and I had no problem with that, but when I felt a hand on my shoulder asking if there was anything they could do because they could see I was distressed I felt nurtured and supported. I mumbled that my sister was dying and I had to get to hospital. He stood beside me, his strong young muscular form creating a natural shield of comfort and security until we arrived in Waverley. He offered to get a taxi for me but I reassured him that I would be ok. There is no happy ending to this tale, and as much as I miss my sister every day and think of her in every way, I also remember my good Samaritan.

I have been struggling to get this piece finished because I didn’t want it to come across as sycophantic or trite, and I’m certainly not looking for a sympathetic outpouring. Ironically while I’ve been trying to consolidate my thoughts, I have become increasingly aware of random acts of kindness and even more kind acts.

There was an article in a paper left behind on a train last Wednesday as I was heading up to meet a friend and her cousin, a florist, who I hope will assist with L’s wedding later this year. The story concerned a young man who had stopped to help a couple whose car had broken down while they were on their way to say good-bye to the woman’s dying mum. Without a thought for himself he made a 400 mile round trip, refusing any payment or gratitude after he realised that the dying woman was unlikely to see or hear her daughter for the last time.

Every week one of my lovely neighbours brings my bins in from the roadside, because, as she put it she’s home and she can. In turn I bring another neighbour’s bins in when they are away or late from work. It’s called paying it forward and if there is one thing we can all do that is to pay forward a kindness that has been bestowed to us. There was a film released in 2000 called Pay It Forward and I remember watching it and thinking how a simple act of kindness can generate a culture of positivity and empathy.

I caught up with one of the partner agencies, Lead a Bright Future, recently with whom I had connected when I first started my current role and I was apprised on the success of Buddy Bear whose role in life is to encourage the younger generation to be kind to each other and, just as essentially, to themselves.

If we can learn to develop the courage to not be a bystander, but take a broad look at a situation and try seek a solution, however small, then we are cascading kindness and offering an opportunity to provide the necessary tools for resilience and self care.

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