I love this blog from the United Kingdom’s Carnegie Trust about kindness, not only because it is co-written by a dear friend, Julie Brownlie (along with co-author Simon Anderson), but also because it reminds me of the advice given to me in the 1980s as I embarked on nurse training in Scotland.
The grandmother of my oldest childhood friend, herself a nurse, counseled me to ‘always give more kindness than is necessary’ to the patients I cared for.
At the time, I barely understood what this might mean, but tried to bring the notion of ‘giving kindness’ front and center to my practice as a nurse. And, over the years, I observed how patients deeply appreciated what seemed to me to be ‘small acts of kindness’—like taking time to brush their hair, listen to patients talk about their families, holding their hands as they underwent a procedure—and to notice how uplifted I felt, as a nurse and as a human. For me, kindness in the context of health and healing cultivated social and emotional connection.
It feels as though we currently live in painful times, but this blog reminds us about the non-obligatory nature of kindness, its animating qualities, and the way in which its practice draws us closer to others. As Buddhists teach, kindness is a practice—something individuals and collectives can choose to actively engage in, moment to moment, day to day.
How much more would we all choose to practice kindness in private and public life, if, as the Scottish government has done, it was prioritized as a core national value?