We talk a lot about the kindness of strangers, or I do at any rate. I live for kindness, actively seeking it out, desperately desperate to do my best and to see the best in other people. And I feel like I'm not alone with that, not many people get out of bed in the morning with the intention of being a knob, and everywhere I look I am surrounded by what seem to be some really great people. And yet it seems, being kind is not always that easy. In a world where we are glued to our phones, trampling over one another to get to the top and just being generally busy, it's surprisingly easy to be a bit of an arsehole.
Pushing in front of someone in the queue for the bus (because hella no I am not losing my seat to these shrieking school children), barging through a crowd with the RBF in full force because your G&T is empty and you'll be damned if you have to listen to Julie moan on about that shitstain of a boyfriend without another one and ignoring desperate pleas for money from people sitting on the pavement because you genuinely haven't got any change on you are just a handful of the little things that we do without thinking, every day, that prevent us perhaps, from being the kind hearted strangers that we are so desperate to be.
The situation online is just as bad, if not worse. The inspiration for this article came from the rather wonderful Vix Meldrew who wrote an article this week expressing her concern that blogging was making people pricks (she wasn't actually wrong at all) - it's all too easy to skim past positive comments that someone so diligently took the time to leave for you and even easier to ignore other people all together. Whether you're a blogger who can't be bothered to read about Clinique's new eyeliner pen (which in fairness does look pretty dreamy) or just your average Facebook user who is becoming acutely bored of seeing photos of Susan's baby, it's impossible to deny that for a large portion of the day we behave like the lone wolfs we feel like.
Every man for themselves. That's what we're taught isn't it? London is a dog eat dog city if I ever saw one and whilst it might not make sense to you, little old lady who I just knocked to the ground as I ran to get onto the tube before the doors closed, (even though, yes, there is another one coming in a minute), I'm b.u.s.y and I've got a lot going on and I just REALLY COULDN'T AFFORD TO MISS THAT TRAIN OKAY?!!?!?! Online it's the same situation. My post, my post, my post!!! READ MY POST FIRST!! (Although, you seriously need to read Vix's post first actually to know what I'm talking about), Twitter is like the London of the internet. Despite wanting to be kind, we're inherently pretty bloody selfish.
And yet, despite our shitty behaviour, we still talk a lot about the kindness of strangers, which does at least suggest, thankfully, that there is a glimmer of hope for what is starting to sound like a pretty bleak situation.
Let's take my life for example, and no, before you roll your eyes, I'm not about to tell you what a great person I am; volunteering at soup kitchens and stopping to feed the pigeons (although that is, of course, the person I would like to become), I'm instead going to tell you about the kindness I have experienced recently from a group of what are, to all intents and purposes, strangers. (Because sadly, I'm hard pushed to call the people I follow on Twitter, who I've never actually met, actual friends, as much as I would like to).
I wrote a blog post last week called Why Does No One Like Me? (If that's not attention seeking then I don't know what is) and last night a girl that I have followed on Twitter for ages @TheSundayGirl (who as it transpires is an actual angel who you need to follow immediately), commented on my post offering some advice, I actually ended up taking up about two hours of her time (bless her, she probably regretting offering) as she talked me through a whole load of stuff that I have wanted to know for ages, but have been to embarrassed to ask anyone about. Blogging networks that I should be part of, tweaks that I could make to my website and social channels, taking my email address and telling me that she would pass it on to people who might be interested in working with me. Despite what I am sure is a demanding work life and, since it was Monday night and there was probably something great to be watching on television, a million better things to be doing, she took the time to just help.
I experienced something similar from Emily Leary (@AMummyToo), another great human who took time out of her day one Saturday morning a few weeks ago to inform me of something I wouldn't otherwise know and suggesting things that I could do to avoid it happening again in the future. I witnessed it again not long ago, Jemma from @dorkfaceblog spent an entire day last week tweeting accounts of the people that she liked, telling her 20k followers to follow them too. She definitely did not need to spend an entire day doing that, detracting probably from her own website, scheduled tweets and beautiful Etsy shop and yet, she did. Because, you guessed it, she's a kind stranger.
Bloggers talk a lot about supporting each other. Empowered women empower women. That's what we like to say. I say it on the daily. And I genuinely mean it. But I wonder how much I undermine that expression by then, even accidentally, doing the exact opposite of what I am promising? It's not entirely empowering to ignore others is it? Nor is it empowering to only look out for number one, no matter how important my own success seems at the time. In the same way that you find yourself wondering how good the person who just told you how good they are, actually is, I worry a little that a few of us brush over our bad behaviour with a well placed hashtag and hope that really, no one notices that we haven't been all that great today.
The fact of the matter is this: being kind is fundamentally fairly easy. Sometimes it seems like hard work. Sometimes it's a bit of an effort. Sometimes we need to be a little bit selfish in order to make the most of a situation. But most of the time, it's something that we should be doing and that we're not, for no reason in particular. Offering help, going out of your way to make sure that you can provide it, not just being there, in the background for someone, but being the person who goes out of their way to do the right thing is the person that most of us want to be. And that's a person that we can be, so easily. I don't want to undermine the kindness that I have experienced from others by suggesting that what they did was easy, as we get busier and the competition gets tougher, it's becoming more and more difficult, actually, to be there for other people, but I wonder if they know how much their small acts of kindness meant to me?
Maybe it's an indication of the nastiness of the world that we are living in today, that when someone behind you in the queue returns your bank card to you when it falls out of your pocket, it merits telling your other half, mother, father, neighbour and dog about how this incident totally restored your faith in humanity. That's a sad reality actually, that this tiny favour done by a stranger can mean so much to us. But it also proves something else: that making another person's day has never been easier. Being kind has never been easier.