Each day I wake up, make breakfast and begin attending to Luisas’ needs. As someone who doesn’t go out to work I spend most of my time without adult company. Like most parents who stay at home, if it wasn’t for the phone in my pocket I could easily go 8 hours or more without speaking to another grownup.
I’ll occasionally be out and about with Luisa – off to the GP, grocery shopping or heading to the park. Quite often I feel a bit cut off, a bit lonely, a face in the crowd. Everyone rushing by; busy, important, on the go. The invisibility cloak that is my pram often renders me imperceptible. I feel adrift, in society but not a part of it.
Modern life is fast, connected, automated. It’s amazing – the ease with which we communicate with people all around the world, how we can control our home heating and lights from our phones, turning on the radio with a voice command. We’ve got FaceTime, collaborative online working spaces, you can send family and friends money faster than you can make a cup of coffee. We’ve never been more connected. But is it all a bit cold, even mean? Is all the technology designed to streamline our lives and make us more connected to the systems and people around us making us detached and lonely?
Don’t get me wrong I love a bit of automation. We have an Amazon Alexa, Phillips Hue bulbs, iPhones, Monzo cards. I’m not about to suggest we shun technology and live in the woods, although some days it does sound appealing! Lately I’ve found myself wondering, are we too busy to be kind? It’s not difficult to show a little kindness but it’s easy to forget how much it means.
Take the new Mum as our example, you’ve seen her this week I’m sure. She’s a bit tired looking, maybe even ashen. Her pram is shiny, her baby pristine, her laundry basket overflowing. Maybe you got stuck behind her as she navigated her way to a table in Starbucks. Perhaps she made you late for work because the bus had to lower so she could get on and she spilt the coins from her purse in her embarrassed haste. Or maybe you served her in the supermarket and felt slightly unnerved by the overeager conversation of someone who hasn’t had and adult conversation for 6 hours. This week when you undoubtedly see her again, spare a smile, move a chair, carry a tray. It will not change the course of your day but as someone who has been there I can guarantee that a small act of kindness will influence hers.
I’m not self absorbed enough to think that I’m the only lonely person out there who could do with a bit of kindness and I do believe that the vast majority of people want to be compassionate and helpful. Life is busy, it’s easy to rush past and not notice someone who needs help or a listening ear. It’s easier to ignore the news and focus on your tasks for evening than think about those who are suffering around the world. We all do it.
As we move into the festive season I’m trying to think of ways I can extend a hand and show a bit of compassion. Right now my personal challenge is to make more conversations about listening and less about sharing my own experience, however relevant or well intentioned. I’ve stumbled upon this kindness advent calendar and I love the idea of adapting it to actions I could do with Luisa throughout December. Our family have also decided that instead of buying and writing 50 Christmas cards I’ll forget to post I’m going to make a donation to Oxfam, online donation makes it quick and easy to do some good. I’ll still send cards to my elderly relatives, who truly appreciate snail mail but as for the rest of you expect a digital greeting this year.
Do you thing we’ve become a little less kind, as a society, or have I just had a rough week? I’d love to hear your stories of how someones made your day a bit brighter or something charitable you’ve done. Leave me a comment or give me a shout on social media.