Instead of setting New Year resolutions, which I know I’ll never keep, I choose a word for the year. Although it might be more accurate to say a particular word searches me out…
January 2018: that word was kindness. The problem was I didn’t really want it. It made its insistent appearance right in the middle of family trauma with my mum’s advanced mental ill-health.
Kindness was anything but what I was experiencing!
But I knew that I had to choose kindness. Let it keep my heart and daily seek to show it (not that I always achieved it).
Not only did it keep me sane, but it also enabled me to receive and see kindness in so many ways at that time. The ward staff. Family and close friends. The timing of little things.
And then in the aftermath of mum’s death in early February, and the arrangements to be made, seeing kindness in so many steps. Including the recognition that if she had died at home, with us, that would have seriously traumatised my brother who has Downs.
Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Warm, tender, showing concern and care.
At first glance we might look at the year gone by and not see a huge amount of kindness. Ugliness, self interest, bullying and game-playing with people and things that are far too important to treat this way.
But it is there. A stream that never stops flowing, even though it may be subterranean for some of its course.
We can tap into it, draw from it, and practice using it to enable us to recognise its sweet spring. In spite of some of the muck.
The thing about living here in the valley is that we get to see that water simply can’t stop flowing. It has to keep moving. And if the aquifer is full, it will even find a way to come out of the rock face.
I’m so grateful that my unexpected diagnosis of breast cancer came after the funeral. That I didn’t dismiss the prompting to go to the routine screening when it came.
That opened up a whole well of kindness that I never expected to receive. From clinicians and clinical teams. From others who had gone through the same experience. Friends and family who didn’t know what to do, but just to be there.
In an extraordinary way my experience of cancer surgery started to fill up my reservoir of kindness. Including, starting to learn to be more kind and gentle with myself.
As you may have recognised, I am relatively self-contained. A combination of my personality (Enneagram 5 with a 4 wing, for those who understand the terminology) and life story, which was far from ‘normal’. I haven’t needed, or indeed been able, to trust people for the things I need.
But over the summer I started to experience a depth of collective kindness that has opened me up like a flower bud.
The generosity of several friends enabled me to join Bernadette Jiwa’s the Right Company, a global business community. I knew I needed the encouragement and accountability of like-minded people in order to grow. This opened up a whole new world of generosity in meaning, providing the seedbed to grow Quiet Disruptors and start to restore my sense of identity. Thank you
Along the way we also changed churches, sensing that we were entering a new season and needed to move. There is a flow in all of this that is extraordinary. It refreshes parts of us that we thought were dead and gone. And brings to life hope as small as a mustard seed.
Kindness expressed in a smile. Thoughtful question. Generous space. Kind affirmation. Gently stretching us. Feeding our soul and lifting up our eyes.
Inviting us to join the flow and to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
What a lovely way to finish the year…