A long time ago I stood in the car-park of Ikea, staring at my car and the sofa I had just purchased. The latter wouldn't fit into the former, despite my best efforts. At that moment a man stood himself beside me and asked me if I needed a hand. He pulled his Range Rover alongside, helped me load the sofa into the back of it and there I perched on the journey home as the girlfriend followed in my car. He was a nice chap and his somewhat glamorous lady friend was obviously used to such acts of charity. As I sat in the back, holding onto the sofa and swaying backwards and forwards I noticed something. On one of those note-taking pads that stick to the windscreen he had written a number self-affirmations and reminders. It was something I notice him consult at the traffic lights when we stopped and again when we arrived at my home.
Without any bother he helped me unload the sofa, declined any form of payment or thanks, simply saying that he had once been in a similar situation and nobody had helped him.
From such things mighty oaks grow.
This morning I was watching this video and was struck by a number of things, this memory in particular. The hyperbole of the title aside, I found it disquieting to realise how impacted I was by such simple acts of kindness and generosity.
Kindness is a virtue, although I would argue it should be the de facto state of being for the majority of us. In a world of rudeness, selfishness and casualness kindness seems to have been forgotten. Too often we think of kindness in the context of sympathy and empathy. Kindness is more than that.
As a society we are casually brutal. We casually fling invective at our fellow drivers, we fight for space, cut up and do our best to get ahead. Courtesy is a common absence. We casually denigrate those in different situations to us, casually criticise and put down those who cannot do anything about where they find themselves. We are casually greedy, casually thoughtless and casually self-absorbed. We casually ignore the neighbours and casually do our own thing. We casually ignore the old woman trying to cross the street, or our families and friends just that bit too far away. We are casually indifferent, casually callous, casually casual about the well-being and well-fare of our fellow person. Our virtues are casual, as casually disregarded as our common decency, courtesy and principles, all because there is a reason to be, whatever that is.
We are astounded by kindness. We are surprised and delighted by the concept of 'suspended coffees' and all the similar charities of life. We watch a video of random acts of kindness and weep. We wonder if we could do such things and then casually go on our way.
I wonder when our attitude to kindness became so indifferent, so unforgiving. I wonder when it became less a habit and a way of being and more an object of rarity.
I wonder that kindness as a virtue is less valuable and less laudable than kindness as a fact. I wonder what I can do to be more kind.