kindness

something i’ve been mulling over, during this month away, is that travelling is almost the definition of getting out of your comfort zone. as home, which we have moulded and patted into the most ideal habitat, is for most people their comfort zone.

no matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, the change in social settings can be disorienting, with an extrovert away from their beloved social fabric in a solo situation, or introvert plunged into an environment where they are constantly meeting new people.

not to mention the changing availability of foods, products and services (i’m looking at you, washing machines!)

anyway, what it had me thinking was that travel is really good in making it abundantly clear of your natural level of generosity and kindness when all your support systems are stripped away from you. for instance, if you visit me at my house, i would be delighted to make you a cup of coffee – but share my special coffee bags when i only have a limited number, for my own purposes? i’m very good at saying get well soon when you are feeling poorly, but what about when i have to skip dinner and spend money and time looking after you when you have an allergic reaction? when i want to cut loose, go with you for a night on the town… but what about forfeiting my own sleep to accompany people to a social occasion, and stay up later than i personally would prefer?

it can be discomfiting to realise the twinges that accompanied each of these actions, that urge to be stingy with possessions, time, money. it’s not always as effortless as we might hope, doing the right thing.
sidenote: i know that we’re not supposed to ALWAYS put others before ourselves (trust me, my boundaries are very much present haha)
it can feel even wasteful, or unhealthy, or spendthrift to overcome the impulse to economise. but i’ve come to conclude, after mulling over my reactions to these events and trying to figure out where this all sits in the realm of right, wrong and human nature, is that i want to be a kind person. i know what kind people are, i can recognise them out in the wild (amongst friends and family, acquaintances and sitcom characters), and i hope and expect that when i eventually get married, it will be to a very kind man. so the thought i now have in the forefront in my mind, and which i hope to cling to moving forward in the moments when my baser nature threatens to win out, is that it isn’t always easy to be kind.

it often is. most people can’t help but stroke puppies, coo at babies, hug their family, smile at their friends, pay an obvious compliment, spend a happy afternoon in the kitchen baking fun cupcakes for a charity event (that sounds so great to me right now, sans kitchen, ha!). these things come easy. they are easy breezy to accomplish, one of those cases where the right and the comfortable go hand in hand.

i want to work on the right and the uncomfortable. speaking out about an unpopular topic, refraining from hurtful gossip, ordering food that isn’t my favourite because it fits someone else’s dietary preferences, insisting on squarely splitting the bill even when the other person’s drink was more expensive – none of these things actually is going to really negatively impact on me. none will hurt me, or make me broke, or render me sick from food poisoning or faint with tiredness. but it will do the world of good for my character, for the experience of others around me, and make me into that kind girl i’ve wanted to be all along. the girl for whom kindness is just how she lives her life.

the silver lining in this realisation, that kindess and a generous spirit doesn’t come easy, is that you come to value these so much more. i’ve heard it said that love is an action, and so we can also see that “kindness”, “generosity”, are also actions. we have to choose to be kind.

of course, our wise pals the dalai lama and henry james put it best:

“three things in human life are important.
The first is to be kind.
The second is to be kind.
And the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – the Dalai Lama

plus this one, which i think sums up the spirit of this post:

“Every act of kindness grows the spirit and strengthens the soul.” – unknown

and now… the word kindness just looks all squiggly to me, i’ve repeated it so many times. hopefully it is still in fact a word (I can’t tell at this point!)

ps – back in nanjing on saturday. this break has been delicious, but i’m ready to go back to study and more importantly, back with my darling friends!