I often worry that when it comes to kindness, I give far less than I receive. Now, however, I’m brimming with new ideas to try when the opportunity arises thanks to Kindness: the little thing that matters most, a new book by Jaime Thurston.
Thurston founded 52 Lives in 2013. Her goal was to help a different person each week for a year, hence touch fifty-two lives. Since then, a movement of kindness has developed, with a global network of over 100,000 supporters having helped over 700 people and counting.
Impressive examples of the difference 52 Lives has made are scattered throughout the book. Onessa has a severely ill soon, Elijah. 52 Lives gave his bedroom a makeover, purchased essential items for him and sent Onessa and her partner on a weekend break. This didn’t just improve their quality of life; Onessa explains: ‘When people who are strangers helped us with the things we need – there are just no words for how that felt. You think that this world is a mad place, but it isn’t. There’s so many good people out there’.
Similar sentiments are shared by 52 Lives supporters, founders of various charitable initiatives and others who have undertaken acts of kindness, such as five-year-old Oliver, who donated bone marrow and stem cells to save his sister’s life: ‘I was nervous and then when I got on to the bed I was really nervous. But it was fine. It was just a little pinch. I feel happy and helpful that I could do it for her. I like helping people’.
Humbling, isn’t it? Yet Kindness manages to provide, appropriately enough, fifty-two ideas for readers to try that are inspiring without becoming intimidating. Some suggestions involve concrete action; others are more philosophical, focusing on our attitudes. Number 11, for instance, is ‘Be a seat vigilante: sacrificing your seat will help more than one individual, you will be helping to build a healthier, kinder community’. Number 44 is ‘Be aware of your thoughts: being aware of where your feelings are coming from will help you to avoid blaming those around you, and take responsibility for your own feelings’.
This is a useful approach. Simple steps are encouraging, but to embrace kindness in a more long-term, sustained manner relies on changing our thinking too. Thurston provides guidance on both, demonstrating that Kindness is underpinned by a considered methodology rather than being just a random bunch of suggestions.
There is also plenty of evidence supporting the claims made in the book. There are numerous quotations from academic research and experts from neuroscientists to David R. Hamilton, Ph.D, author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness. Hamilton penned the foreword for Kindness as well, while Dr Mark Williamson, Director of influential Action for Happiness, provides the ‘Highly recommended’ endorsement on the cover.
There are different ways to read Kindness. I devoured it in two sessions (there are lots of illustrations!) but it would be brilliant for more long-term engagement. Each of the fifty-two suggestions could be a weekly reflection, like a devotional. Furthermore, because it will touch you when you’re feeling positive but is even more powerful when you’re in a negative mindset, there’s a place for it on the shelves as a book to be returned to over and over, dipped into when you need a boost of connection or a reminder of humanity’s goodness.
Just think of five-year-old Oliver.