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In praise of kindness

I am always heartened by the kindness that occurs every day if you look for it. Despite the ugly and horrific things we read and see, it is happening all around us. Is it the person who puts their change in the charity box at the till? Is it the person who cancels their plans to be with a friend who is having a rough time? Is it the parent who donates their bone marrow to their sick child? Is it the person who brings you a coffee because you are tired, or sad, or just because it’s Saturday? Is it the locals who rally round a family when they have lost someone they love? It is all of these things. It is one of the single most rewarding and healing connections we can make, or have, with another person. Being kind is being vulnerable, it is forgiveness, sacrifice, selflessness and rewarding. And there can never be enough of it.

People will always respond to kindness because if you are treated kindly you are instantly softened, you feel good, you feel positivity and warmth from and towards this person and that will affect you forever. I am not preaching that I live with kindness in everything I do, I am certainly not Gandhi and I do not know any Mother Teresa and wouldn’t want to. We are all just muddling through, making mistakes, making it up, making the most of it, but one thing you can try to do your best to be is kind. It will fill up your heart. No act of kindness is ever a waste of time. Be aware of what you say as it will linger longer than any physical pain, how you treat another in the bus queue, how you write an email or a text if a person has infuriated or hurt you, how you treat another heart and how you treat your own. Just be kind.

Birthdays

I love birthdays. For my 30th last year it became an entire season as I stretched it from a dinner and a party in June to a holiday a few months later. Over the top and totally indulgent but I loved every minute of it. I realised that I love birthdays, both my own and my family and friends’ because it is an example of the most joyful kindness. You send love to people on their birthdays, and have it returned for yours if you are lucky. People remind you that they care or that they think you are awesome or they want to spend the evening in your company just because you were born that day. They cheer when you make wishes and eat cake and take time to write sweet things in birthday cards. It is actually probably selfish of me to love them, but exceptionally kind of everyone whom I love in my life. I read each birthday card and usually cry with joy and smile and keep them dotted around the sitting room for far too long. They remind me of the lovely people who are in my life and how lucky I am. I don’t think you are ever too old for birthdays, because you are never too old for kindness.

Sickness

When I was five years old I got my tonsils out in Sligo hospital. My mother is undoubtedly the most selfless person I know but in those days they kept you in for a week for this type of operation and my Mom slept on an ugly, uncomfortable plastic chair by my hospital bed every night because I was afraid and I asked her to. This is a small of example of her selflessness. She did the same when I had a cyst removed from my ovary ten years ago. She disregards herself every single time and puts the needs of those she loves before her own. Every single time. I often call her a ‘walking angel on the earth’ and she winces when I say it. Her kindness and thoughtfulness surpass anyone I have ever known. It’s not just in illness though, it is the only way she knows how to love her family and friends, with fearless abandon. Reese Witherspoon’s character in her recent movie ‘Wild’ says ‘My mother was the love of my life’, and I know exactly what she means.

Break up

I broke up with a long-term boyfriend last year. We had been on and off for some time but it was finally over. It happened on a Sunday night and the next morning in work I was limp and tear-stained and the world had all but caved in. My friend Deirdre came by my desk and knew by my inability to answer a basic ‘How are you?’ that something was wrong. She swaddled me into the office bathroom and without a second’s thought said ‘Come and stay with me.’ Not just for a night, but until I found somewhere else to live. She helped me pack the things from the home I once shared with him and we got a taxi to what was my new home. Life was in flux and I am sure I cried in front of her more than she ever thought anyone could. I stayed in the spare room of her and her husband’s Drumcondra home for two months. She listened, she made me cups of tea and poured us wine, she watched movies with me, she didn’t allow me to wallow, she listened and never judged as I grieved. She and her home were a beacon, a sanctuary, a soft and kind place to return in those biting winter nights. She never asked for a thing in return. I had known her for just over a year at that point and her kindness is something I will never, ever forget. I am very glad to know her.

Work

I resigned from my permanent job earlier this year to write again. While I knew I was making the right decision and have never been happier, I was nervous revealing the news to family and friends. My parents were the biggest surprise. As my meandering career has seen me qualify and freelance as a journalist, work as a TV producer, direct, work as a cheese monger and then move to a Corporate Communications role, I was reluctant to tell them about my latest career change. I was expecting a ‘here she goes again’ response but it was the exact opposite. They were kind, they were happy for me because I was happy. My father, my hero, mo chara dílís, got a glisten in his eye like I had not seen before. Because he could see and understand how happy I was, and that this was actually what I wanted to do. I was overwhelmed at the kindness I felt from family and friends. My Godmother and Aunt Bernie has been tireless in encouraging me. My friend Amy, a fellow brunette Donegalian, has been sort of like a Marketing manager, introducing me to people as if I have been nominated for an Oscar whenever the opportunity arises. When others told me I was mad, she only became more steadfast in her belief in my work, especially when I had little belief myself. It is when your chips are down that you find out the substance of yourself, but also of those around you. I am blessed to have wonderful people in my life. Here is to their kindness.

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These are some small examples of things, and people who have affected me forever with their kindness. Everyone has their own spies and battalions of sorrows and celebrations in their life, but you will find kindness runs like a certain and enriching tonic through them all.

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