Like many busy people I struggle to balance ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ time in my daily routine. This is especially so in term time when email in-boxes and back-to-back meetings can limit opportunities for creative thinking. Holidays thus become a time for thought (or day dreaming as my wife calls it), and for some reason my most productive thinking occurs when I am a passenger on a long car journey.
Driving back from Scotland after the New Year we got stuck in a traffic jam on the M6. As we ground to a halt I quietly praised the invention of the iPad for occupying otherwise bored children, although my efforts to persuade the Elliott family to forsake ‘Angry Birds’ for online research into the etymology of Hogmanay fell on deaf ears. Having failed to ignite intellectual sparks in the rear seats my attention switched to the emptiness of the West Coast mainline in comparison to the car park that was the M6. Idle thoughts about how we could encourage more people from cars into trains were interrupted when the traffic began to move.
The jam appeared to be the product of a broken-down lorry in the middle lane of the M6 but as we edged closer it became clear that far from a traffic villain the lorry driver was a motorway Samaritan. He had parked his HGV to shield a car carrying a young family that had broken down in the centre lane. Without the lorry, parked a safe distance from the car, the family involved would have been very vulnerable. A potential accident had been avoided.
The lorry driver had performed a ‘random act of kindness’ of the type increasingly promoted by charities, schools and community groups. There is a global random acts of kindness movement, which uses social media to showcase heart warming examples of human generosity accompanied by evidence that being kind to each other promotes well being, reduces anxiety, and aids cohesion. A profusion of kind acts can reset the social norm in society, raising behavioural bars, and setting positive examples for others to follow. One way in which London 2012 brought out the best in humanity was through the efforts of the volunteer games makers, whose kind actions created a genuinely welcoming and warm experience.
The Perse ran a Lower School Random Acts of Kindness week in December. By the end of a 14 week term when institutional fatigue is setting in kindness can benefit from a helping hand. Children are hard-wired to be kind, and with an institutional lead and some good examples of kindness to follow, the week was a success with pupils sharing out festive treats and holding doors open for each other. A team of secret Santas even ensured that every member of the school community received a hand-written Christmas card. Sometimes the pressure and pace of modern living can push kindness down the daily agenda but once exposed to examples of kindness our innate generosity and goodness are rekindled.
We will continue to promote kindness at The Perse . It brings the school community together and makes pupils feel better about themselves and each other. It creates a supportive and caring school environment from which we all benefit.
Let 2013 be the year when random acts of kindness become routine.