soul survival guide
a conversation about kindness
salutem cafe, south manchester - jan 20
Here are some of the loveIy people who joined me at Salutem Cafe for a conversation about kindness. It includes three generations from the same family!
Thank you to everyone for sharing your stories and thoughts. We talked about so much! There was a lot to chew on when writing this up.
what came out of the conversation
This was a thread throughout the conversation. Many stories were in everyday settings, like shops, public transport and the street. Kindness isn’t for special occasions.
The stories often involved a stranger; someone being kind to us or the other way round. A feature of these experiences was taking the time, even if just for a few moments, to engage in kindness. Rather than pressing on with our business of the day, we consciously pause and step out of what we are doing. In that way, kindness is a choice.
One of the stories was about the kindness shown by a health professional who took the time to help someone who was anxious about an injection. He closed the door on a busy surgery and focused on the person. In another case though, a nurse spoke unnecessarily harshly to a patient in front of other people.
We talked about health services and the pressures on staff. Kindness should be the norm, not the exception, but it can get side-lined. We need to find ways of rehumanising healthcare.
kindness as connection
We can go through our daily lives without really seeing people, whether it’s the shop assistant at a checkout, people we pass on the street or someone next to us on the bus.
Kindness is a way of connecting. Perhaps more than that - kindness IS connection.
At a basic level, it’s about acknowledging others, and we shouldn’t underestimate what that means. People can feel invisible.
Sometimes the connection can be surprisingly powerful. One of the group told a story of walking along the street after a relationship break up. An oncoming stranger looked her in the eye, took in how she was feeling and offered a hug – which she accepted. Kindness can cut through social convention and change someone’s day.
complexities of kindness
Good intentions don’t always lead to positive outcomes. One person had to step away from doing an elderly neighbour's shopping due to nasty behaviour. Although she felt guilty, she had a young family to look after and the neighbour had grown up children who could see to her.
Another person tried to help her brother with an addiction. She realised she was being conditional – I’ll do this if you do that. At the same time, she allowed him to take advantage. One day she went up to his door but decided not to go in. It was hard to feel so powerless, but she recognised she needed to walk away.
Guilt often raises its head in these kind of situations. As a carer for his mother with dementia, one of the group had felt guilty going out of the house for a few hours to spend time with friends, even though care was in place. This is where self-care is vital. As the saying goes, we can’t pour from an empty cup.
We agreed it’s healthy to have boundaries. Some of us shared examples from our professional lives and how they support us in our work. Boundaries are just as important in our personal lives, especially as they can easily get blurred.
compassion vs pity
The group agreed that kindness is better coming from a place of compassion than pity. If we feel sorry for someone, we’re looking down on them, whereas as compassion is alongside, human to human. It's less likely to create dependency or stifle a person with good intentions.
From Farida Nizamuddin, one of Ali’s contacts on LinkedIn,
following a post about kindness Feb 20:
Do good and throw it in the river. Do not remember it or become too attached to the reward for it. We are the kindest when we do not even remember we helped someone.
And our Prophet also says, do not look in someone's eyes when you are helping them, lest their humble eyes sow a seed of pride in your heart. Pride will ruin you. Make sure you look at them higher than yourself. Always regard them with the highest regard.
kindness in a wider way
We’re living in challenging times. Sometimes it can feel like the world’s problems are too big to deal with. Practising kindness on a daily basis can help us with this. It reminds us of the positive difference we can make.
If more and more of us create ripples of kindness, perhaps – as the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation believes - they contribute to a global synergy. Our small acts are part of something bigger.
Remember, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.
what people said about the conversation
'Thanks so much for tonight, Ali. It was a great conversation, really uplifting, and it’s made me want to do more of them. I think it’s a great thing you are doing.’
'Salutem is a friendly and open space where you can meet new people and feel included…Their wellbeing workshops and meet-ups have introduced me to people I never would have met otherwise and helped me feel like a valued person in my new home town.'
Kindness is one of the subjects I explore in my book 'soul survival guide'.
See author q&a for more about the book and why I wrote it.