Like many people I am struggling to engage with the news in 2018. The headlines lacerate and the commentary sneers. Debate is polarised to the point of irrelevance.
Also like most people, I try to be kind whenever possible. All of my regrets focus on times when kindness has failed me. I don’t believe that kindness is defined by our nature; that you either have it or you don’t. The conditions of our lives help to polish or dull our capacity.
My grandmother modelled kindness in the way that she interacted with the world. Nanna lived through every dark nook and cranny of every Catherine Cookson plot. Yet outwardly she empathised, considered and responded with kindness at every moment. As an adult, part of me wishes that she had unleashed some of the anger that she must have held.
On our watch, we are detaining children, abandoning people on boats bound for safety, squabbling about where people pee, saving the last pound for our construction company at the cost of safety, making extra pennies while others starve; strumming a lyre while our compassion hardens to a callus.
How do we cultivate kindness when we witness (or inadvertently collude with) such cruelty? Can we afford to be kind in a world that cares more about outrage and less about quietly doing the right thing? By definition, kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. So what is the generous and considerate thing to do now? Who are our friends – and do we need to check how they voted?
To be kind in 2018 is to pay attention, to be willing to be wrong, to speak up, to learn and to take good care. It’s asking yourself, ‘what would Nanna do?’