My ex boyfriend once showed up at home with shopping bags filled with women’s clothes. For me.
I had, in a funk of self loathing, been complaining about the weight I had piled on and my inability to find anything in my wardrobe that fit me.
So he had taken himself, without my knowledge, into a series of women’s fashion stores and told the shop attendants of his girlfriend’s dilemma and asked their advice on what clothing items to purchase. Then he bought them.
It was such a kind and thoughtful gesture, one of many from this compassionate soul. Despite his own gruelling work schedule he would find the time to sit by my bath and massage shampoo into my hair with tender fingers, washing the lather away with warm water and drying me off with a towel as though I was a precious egg whose shell may crack. He knew me well.
I once asked him for a glass of water and he came back in holding a giant vase filled to the brim. This lovely man was both sweet and funny though I rarely gave him that feedback at the time.
Kindness is underrated. It is up there with humour in a woman’s eyes of what makes a man attractive. Of course I realise that now.
You can’t kill someone with kindness, though they may kill themselves with the anger they feel inside that prevents them from accepting that same kindness when it’s offered.
Being mean is easy, it’s reactive and comes from a place of self hatred and keeps others at a distance. Now kindness, there is a more enlightened emotion. It reeks of vulnerability and connection, for to be kind you have to put yourself on the line for not everyone will afford you that same kindness back. To be kind you have to lean in not push away and for some that is excruciatingly hard.
As T S Eliot once wrote “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm (that they cause) does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves”
I used to squirm when people were kind. I didn’t know how to accept it, how to thank them and how not to immediately return the favour for I foolishly believed that life was a game of credit and debit and I must give more than I receive.
But kindness isn’t a favour or a loan, it’s not always given with an expectation of return or even thanks and when you find yourself on the end of it it’s best to sit still and breathe it in. Even though breathing it in may do the very thing you fear most. It may open your heart.
Some find it easier to offer strangers random acts of kindness rather than experience the extreme rawness that kindness to someone we love can create. When my mother lay dying in a hospital bed I stood in line at the hospital cafe memorising the coffee order for my family members upstairs.
I got to the front of the line and opened my mouth to speak and all that came out were tears. I had to write down the order on a piece of paper and hand it to the barista instead.
When I picked up the four coffees stacked in a cardboard tray I discovered the barista had filled the inside of the tray with chocolate freckles to soothe my heart. Even now, thinking about his kindness makes me cry because kindness can do that, cut to the core, in a real way.
Meanness can do that too. Make people cry. Only those tears don’t heal the way tears of kindness do. They just create a river of separation with two people on either side with no lifeboat between them.
If you make someone laugh and you offer them kindness then I reckon you have that person for life. Friend, lover or stranger. For kindness heals the heart and laughter then fills it.
In my book that’s a winning combination. You can scatter that shit everywhere.