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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love . . . Being Randomly Kind, or Kindly Random


Artwork by Sonny Jim - 2009

One of the first books I can remember having read to me as a very small child was "The Water Babies" by Charles Kingsley, a very old copy with beautiful colour plate illustrations, belonging to my dad. Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby was one of the characters - the only one who has stuck in my mind ever since.

To me, kindness is one of the most important values. I think the old philosophy of "do as you would be done by" still has some mileage in it yet…

I'm not talking about having to join a special "Random Acts of Kindness"/ R.A.K. group, or tell everyone how kind you've been. Although those things will certainly appeal to some. I am talking about those little kindnesses that are sprinkled into our days, by ourselves and others. Most of them are not grand gestures, but simple consideration of our fellow creatures, whether human or not! I love doing these small acts of kindness and I certainly love being on the receiving end too. Much like anything in life, there's plenty of room for improvement, at least on my part! But I think making a small start and having a go are the best way to begin, at least that's my philosophy anyway.

As a small child I remember being taught the importance of always saying please and thank you. This was not in any way seen as an act of kindness, but just plain old-fashioned manners. A bit later on, my brother and I were taught to hold the door open for others. When I was a teenager walking to school it used to be my daily personal challenge to see how many people walking in the opposite direction I could get to smile in response to my friendly grin! I still like to hand out free smiles at every opportunity :-) Just recently I have found the website Kind Over Matter, and that has lots of inspiration on how to include more kindness in your day, plus loads of freebies that you can print, like this free "Love Letter to the World".

After watching an episode of the BBC documentary "Child of Our Time" a couple of years ago, I did the "Values Test" on Sonny Jim. He was 8 years old, the same as the children in the documentary who did the same test. I gave him scraps of paper with the words RICH, FAMOUS, HANDSOME, CLEVER, KIND and HEALTHY written on them. His task was to discard these words one by one, least important discarded first. The prompt went something along the lines of "Which one of these is the LEAST important to you?" That value was discarded, then one more, and another one, repeatedly until there was only one word left. From this, the theory is that you get an idea of the child's values. These were Sonny Jim's results, from most important down to least important:


I was so proud of him that he valued kindness the most. Especially in the context that on the "Child of Our Time" tv programme all the boys except one put most importance on being rich and famous! But being rich and famous are literally the least of Sonny Jim's priorities! Interestingly, the girls in general tended to value kindness higher than the boys did. The one boy who valued kindness as the most important value on the tv show had a "stay at home dad" whilst his mum went out to work. Dr Robert Winston (the show's presenter) postulated that this difference was likely due to this boy not having been exposed to the usual gender stereotypes. Very interesting, consider that Sonny Jim has also avoided gender stereotyping at home, and also valued kindness most highly.

The same year he did the "Values Test", 2009, Sonny Jim did a school activity where the children were studying Martin Luther King and had to use their own ideas to complete the sentence "I had a dream. . ." This is his response:

"It was a wonderful dream. . . I dreamt that everybody was kind to everybody."

Hopefully as Sonny Jim grows up he will continue to place a high value on kindness, as we all do in our little family. . .

I'll finish with a quote from the Dalai Lama. I read it out to Sonny Jim a few days ago and his response?

 "He's an astounding man." 

Well said, that boy!

"My religion is simple. My religion is kindness."
The Dalai Lama

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