In the world of social media where everyone has an opinion on who we should be, we are constantly bombarded by platitudes of compassion and moral standing. Fair enough the world today really is leaving much to be desired. Then there’s this song I play for my daughter from Sesame Street by Tori Kelly -Try a Little Kindness, hoping somehow it’ll seep into my daughter’s subconscious or maybe it’ll seep into mine. It’s catchy and she enjoys the melody.
I decided to google kindness and the following was the result- “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Kindness – it may seem like a simple concept but it’s often gone awry at least for me. In so many situations where I have lent a someone money, given someone a lift, even with helping to review assignments – it has turned out messy at best. It always starts so innocently. Recently I got a new housekeeper, transport is an issue for her – so on the days that I was heading in her direction I gave her a lift. After those lifts I noticed slowly but surely the dynamics started to change, things were haphazardly done. She started work late because she was chatting on her phone, ignored the baby: the baby was fussing and was demanding attention, I was trying to work – she had to reply to text message (Please note her job description clearly states one hour of interactive play while I work) she asked if I could pick up a burger for her, laundry not ironed and other little things. It made me think about my previous jobs and I wondered what my bosses would have said if I said ‘Hey can you go pick me up a burger?’ I felt like I was doing more work now that she was here to help, like I was helping her. The dynamics had changed – simply because I was kind to her.
I felt like firing her but instead I took a step back to evaluate. The Guyanese saying “Her eyes had gone past me” came to mind. That is – she started to take advantage. My kindness was not received with kindness. She started to exploit my generosity and took advantage. Please don’t misunderstand this isn’t some bourgeois madam having a fit because the help didn’t help. Sadly my past is littered with a series of individuals who have taken advantage and often I had waited a little too long to say No. But this isn’t about my stupidity or my inability to say no. This is about kindness and receiving it. Is kindness to others really worth it? Have human beings moved so far beyond that they can not receive kindness without attempting to take advantage? Or is it that it’s simply easier to take advantage of someone rather than do it yourself. It made me think of a Sam Levenson quote that Audry Hepburn has been famously noted as following.
“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” Sam Levenson
Do people realise that they are capable of helping themselves? Or should the question be have people stopped recognising that they have the capacity to help themselves? I suppose it may just be easier to ask someone else. But what a disadvantage you do to yourself when you don’t do things for yourself. It robs you of the opportunity to learn, it robs you of the pride you feel when you achieve something, it takes away your right to figure out your strengths and steals your ability to form theories. Not necessarily a space quantum type theory but when you help yourself it helps you to create logic and apply logic to problems ergo establishing the problem solving aspect of your brain. This is simply a base explanation but I think you grasp my meaning.
If someone will automatically take advantage, do we then save kindness or acts of charity for only the needy? I’ve come to realise that you have first got to be kind to yourself, show love to your loved ones and when you give a helping hand – ensure that you are truly giving a helping hand and not hindering an individual’s progress. Kindness isn’t helping those who aren’t willing to try, that’s enabling.It’s hard to recognise the difference but if you think of it from the perspective of studies, learning to drive or your child learning to feed them-self then you know the only way they will master the skill is if they do it for themselves.
Kindness and generosity aren’t bad things. You have got to ensure that there are boundaries. Sadly there are takers out there – i.e. people who simply cannot stop themselves from taking advantage of others,but there are those who genuinely need a helping hand and if you can, then do what you can.