OPINION

Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Kindness is a balm in difficult times

Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Kindness is a balm in difficult times

Kindness is a balm in difficult times.

We saw this at the height of the pandemic last year.

People in various parts of the world took to their balconies to applaud frontline healthcare workers, or to hold placards with inspiring messages of support to their neighbours.

In cities throughout Italy, people played music at their apartment windows to help their neighbourhoods feel united in the quarantine. It wasn't long before the trend took hold in other parts of Europe as well as the United States.

These small gestures inspired others to do their bit to spread joy. When we hear about the goodwill of others, it often moves us to show that same spirit of generosity. Kindness begets kindness.

This is worth remembering as our community grapples with COVID-19 (and the lockdown it's necessitated). Many of us will be fearful, anxious, frustrated or distressed. Kindness won't eliminate COVID-19 and its financial, social and psychological havoc, but it can bring a bit of comfort - to ourselves and to others - as we navigate these challenging circumstances. It can help make our own lives more rewarding.

'Stay Kind' began as a family foundation to remember Thomas Kelly (who was killed in a one-punch assault in Kings Cross in 2012) and his brother Stuart Kelly (who subsequently lost his life to suicide). It's now a national movement, aimed at promoting kind behaviours and values in order to reduce harm and violence. Its 'Kind July' campaign encourages all Australians to offer a kind gesture every day in July. It doesn't have to be anything profound. Simple, random acts of kindness can make an immeasurable difference to someone, particularly if they're vulnerable or hurting.

Research around the world repeatedly shows how powerful kindness is both as an agent of change and for the health and wellbeing of ourselves and those around us. Australians have an amazing capacity for kindness, evidenced by how communities rallied together during the bushfires, ongoing drought and now this pandemic. At these times we need to find it within ourselves to stop for that moment and not walk past a simple opportunity to make a difference for someone and at the same time help ourselves.

Of course, kindness shouldn't begin and end in July. It should always be at the forefront of our consciousness. Let's keep that in mind as we support each other through this lockdown. By sharing the best of ourselves, we can all contribute to making our communities happier and safer.

More information on 'Stay Kind' is available at staykind.org