It is hard to write about kindness and being considerate without sounding like a self-righteous arse, but I’m going to try my best. David Lewis and Mindlabs recently conducted an experiment which proved that people who spent time doing considerate deeds for their communities (giving someone money for a parking ticket, watering people’s plants when they were away) were happier, healthier, had more self esteem and were less stressed than before.
This is hardly surprising stuff, but I reckon kindness is a bit of an overlooked and underrated commodity in London. I’m finding that doing things for others is the hardest of my rules to fulfil (apart from going to the gym, which is taking a brief leave of absence while I hibernate for the winter). The fact is us Londoners are busy – we fill up our diaries, fit in drinks or dinner with friends but are sometimes unavailable for more attentive “maintenance” and we rarely say hello to our neighbours. We walk fast, live fast and are highly intolerant of strangers, especially those on public transport (that bastard just stood on my foot/is walking too slow/coughing near me/holding his paper in my personal space!!).
In researching this post I found this blog about helping others which talks about a “volcanic eruption of kindness” in London – how one kind act led to another and then another. I totally believe in karma, which is why I didn’t mind when that bloke elbowed me out the way on the tube this morning because I know he’ll be stepping on a giant dog turd later. As Paolo Coehlo suggests, if you do something nice, fate will send the love right back at you, and it’s easy to work out why – if you help a friend out they’re much more likely to help you back and if you do something nice for someone the warm glow it gives you somehow radiates onto other people (and yes I did develop much of this theory while backpacking round India…). The blog gives various small kindness ideas so I’m going to try a few out. In the meantime, here’s a few little ideas that I’m going to try to fit in:
- Help a friend move house. There are few things more utterly shit than moving house on your own. And yet by helping a friend, you only need to give up an hour or two and are likely to be rewarded with love, beer and improved biceps at the end. I am therefore lugging my South-of-the-Thames self to Crouch End for exactly this reason this weekend.
- Give money to all buskers on the tube – especially if they make you smile/get nostalgic/hum. Just a bit of shrapnel from your wallet is fine and you’ll get a smile back that will make you feel happy. There is a small exception to the rule for that grumpy accordion player at Oxford Circus.
- Make something for someone – a birthday card, cake or cup of tea.
- Say hello to neighbours, help people with their luggage, send someone a book they’d like, help a colleague with their work.
I should finally mention websites like Help from Home and ivolunteer which give ideas about what things you can do to help and volunteering in general. They said nice things about me so I’m saying nice things back – you see? Karma.