An epidemic of kindness

Celebrity deaths, Isis rampages, the refugee crisis, Brexit divisions and a warming planet: 2016 has been nothing if not memorable - for all the wrong reasons. How can we keep our chins up when the news seems so relentlessly grim? The Reverend Rachel Rosborough has seen the light.

Here we are hurtling towards the end of 2016, and winter and Christmas are not so far away.  2016 has been quite a year, and there have been a number of times when people have wished we could simply rewind and start it over again. 

Early in the year, we suffered some big losses thanks to the unexpected deaths of well-known figures like David Bowie, Prince, Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman and others.  In addition, there have simply been far too many times when we have switched on the TV and seen yet another report of violence and attack, fear and terror, death and destruction all over the world, close to home in Europe and further afield.  In June, we had the EU referendum that unfortunately divided a nation and seemed to bring out some of our worst behaviour and attitudes.

All of this gets ceaselessly reported to us in our newspapers, via the Internet and on our TV screens. Sometimes, we are bombarded with so many pictures and reports of bad news that we may find ourselves wondering if there is any good news left. 

I find myself seizing any small bit of good news reporting, and delighting in it - they seem few and far between.  One of the lovely things about being a member of the clergy is that I get to see lots of good news, often in small acts of gentleness and kindness, in care of neighbours and moments of welcome.  It reminds me that actually, if we put aside our newspapers for a moment and just observe life, there are lots of good news stories to celebrate.

A few weeks ago, I went to the local shop to get some pizzas for a lazy Friday night dinner.  I needed to go to the cashpoint first and found myself waiting behind an elderly gentleman who took a very long time to use the cash machine.  However, as I waited, he was assisted very patiently by a younger woman.  I assumed she was a relative who was accompanying him to the shops but then she left him to it, once she was sure he was OK, and drove off.  I was so touched by her kindness and patience, as well as his very sincere apology, after he had finished, for holding us up.  It would have been impossible to respond with anything other than a cheery ‘no problem!’ even if I had wanted to.  Kindness and patience, it seems, is catching!  

While I was waiting for the elderly gentleman to finish using the cash machine, I noticed a foreign tourist stop to ask a local person where the Model Village was (note: the Model Village is well worth a visit if you are in Bourton on the Water at any time!).  The local woman began to describe how to get there, then she paused, took in the rain that was falling quite steadily now, and offered the visitor a lift.  The visitor explained that she had her dog and two friends with her.  The woman replied that this was not a problem, welcomed them all into her car and drove them off to the model village.

I was only at the shop for a few minutes but I caught a glimpse of what I think is actually quite common but which goes by largely unnoticed, certainly unreported – most people are kind and generous of spirit, wanting to help and support others and also that it is very hard to react to kindness with anything other than more kindness.  Kindness is a biblical and godly thing that we often overlook (Galatians 5:22).  I would rather like it to become an epidemic...