As I sit shivering in a cold hockey rink for my son’s pre dawn hockey practice a stranger sits down and hands me a steaming cup of coffee. During a bed-ridden pregnancy a mother I recognise from my daughter’s preschool but have never spoken to, rings my doorbell and offers to drive my daughter to school. Recovering from a lengthy illness, a cornucopia of food arrives from neighbours I have rarely spoken to. Walking through a cavernously empty airport, late at night after a long delayed flight, I am feeling vulnerable and anxious. Two kindly strangers, who I know only through email, are patiently awaiting my arrival. Their smiles and welcoming embraces warm me.
Each of the small acts of kindness I describe above made my life a little easier. Most importantly they opened my heart. Underneath each act was an opportunity for connection to grow and friendship to bloom.
In spite of what we read in the papers or watch on the news, we are surrounded by endless, uncelebrated acts of generosity, love, benevolence, civility and tolerance rather than acts of violence and greed. We could not otherwise survive.
A recently released global survey (http://www.guardian.co.u…) found that in the last month, one third of the world’s population had given to charity and 45% had helped a stranger. These heartening numbers remind us that kindness flows all around the planet.
At the same there is ample evidence that points to the erosion of our growing disconnection from one and other. For example in Canada, 25% of seniors live alone. This is an unprecedented occurrence. The UK reports a silent epidemic of loneliness with one in ten older people saying they often or always feel lonely and 50% who consider television their main source of company (http://www.timesonline.c…).
While a complex set of societal variables underpin this loss of ‘social capital’, we actually know how to address our growing loneliness and distance from one another. Goodness expresses itself in countless ways and even the smallest act of kindness can have a profound effect.
Our actions can work like a reagent, added one drop at a time to a chemical solution. At first nothing may happen until, with the addition of a single drop, the whole mixture changes colour. Like a reagent we can be alchemists in our communities, adding one drop of caring at time.
This is how enduring change happens. We pay attention to and shine the light on what we want more of. We share and talk about our vision for what we want. And most importantly we act in ways that represent the change we want to see. Collectively these small rays of kindness become beacons and beams illuminating our collective humanity.
Vickie was recently interviewed by CharityVillage.com. Click here to read their profile, Leadership in Focus.
For a video/Vimeo presentation of a much talked about presentation Vickie gave at the Social Innovation Lab in Toronto earlier this year click here. It is the story of her role in shaping PLAN as a social enterprise, creating the PLAN Institute to focus on spreading solutions to isolation and loneliness and establishing Tyze as a social purpose business to address a world wide epidemic of loneliness.
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Perhaps we cannot raise the winds. But each of can put up a sail so that when the wind comes we can catch it.