What better time to think about the importance of the concept of kindness than on Robert Burns’ Day? The celebrated Sottish author of many memorable (and perhaps unintelligible to non-Scots!) works of linguistic and conceptual beauty, Burns’ most famous composition, Auld Lang Syne, has become the universal anthem for so many New Year festivities. In that very recognizable song, we are encouraged to “share a cup of kindness” with everyone. I like to think of that expression in a less concrete way than is generally interpreted, seeing it as a metaphor for one of the most precious gifts that we can give each other. Can you imagine the impact if we all shared as many cups of kindness as we do with cups of tea or coffee? Surely everyone would benefit, both the authors of the acts of kindness and those on the receiving end?
The great thing about kindness is that it means that we are thinking of other people and their needs as opposed to dwelling on our own. We know that it is all too easy for any of us to obsess about ourselves, to focus overly much on our own issues or on how the world is treating us, so rising above that approach is very good for us indeed. Kindness is the perfect tonic; it makes both the giver and the receiver feel better. That’s why so many people love their pets and dog-owners in particular can lavish affection on their animals and have every kind and loving gesture returned tenfold by their canine friends.
As is often the case, the nuance of other languages can take something further and, of course, the French word for ‘kind’ is ‘aimable’ which does suggest that the quality makes you more likeable or even lovable. As Mark Twain famously said “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” It can be so powerful that it literally radiates around us – what a beautiful image. So, the next time that you have a chance to share a ‘cup of kindness’, take it. Even a few drops can make a difference to somebody’s life in ways large and small.