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The Story of Kindness

23 Sep 2017 | Bernadette Russell

Be Kind Wide

Like most humans, I tell stories every day.

But I'm also a storyteller by profession, so sometimes that means retelling classic folk and fairy tales, myths and urban legends, picked up on my travels, discovered in dusty old bookshops, or overheard on buses and trains as I'm travelling about.

Listening to people in bars and cafes. Talking to strangers. Asking questions. Being curious. Collecting.

Storytelling

Sometimes I tell stories I've written myself, nudging them into shape as I tell. Sometimes I make them into theatre shows, sometimes podcasts, sometimes I tell stories on Facebook and occasionally I get things published.

I love stories.

I agree with the poet and novelist Ben Okri who has this to say about stories

"A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose its moorings or orientation... Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart larger"

The other thing I do daily is practise kindness.

366 Days Of k   Book Small

Here's the (true) story of how that came about for me: on August 18th 2011, party in response to the recent riots which had just swept through the U.K, partly from feeling overwhelmed with the constant news of wars, corruption, climate change, and feeling helpless, in a reckless moment I decided to see if being kind every day to a stranger would change anything.

"The world is full of human beings committing acts of kindness, selflessness, courage, sacrifice, at every single moment all over the world"

I wanted to investigate this: could kindness change the world?

Once the year was up (366 days, as it covered a leap year), having experienced the most uplifting, intense and inspiring time of my life, everything had changed for me, for the better. On social media and in a blog, I told the small daily stories of that first year of kindness, and slowly, other people began to tell me theirs.

Show 1 Show 2

It's taken me a while to fully appreciate where storytelling and kindness converge.

Stories. The ones we (mostly) hear on the radio see on TV and read on our social media feeds, are about all that's bad in the world and the awful behaviour of our fellow human beings.

The message is simple: humans are not to be trusted, its best to look out for yourself, plus maybe the chosen few closest to you, also, the world is in an insurmountable mess. You may as well give up. It's all over. Because of us. Being bad.

It's true we are living in difficult and challenging times. But we humans have lived through difficult times before. It's important to keep up with the news and current affairs, to know what is going on and where.

But the stories we are generally presented with are negative, bleak and fear-driven. And yet, these are not the only stories. They are the only stories we are told, which is different. We are told stories of fear without being told stories of hope, of courage, of kindness, and we are rarely presented with possible solutions.

One Random Act

What that means is we hear of the men who knocked the old lady over and took her bag (much less often of the many people who stopped to help, bought her tea, replaced her bus pass out of their own money etc.)

Here's the real shocker, the one that should be splashed with several!!!!! on the front pages of our daily papers: the world is full of human beings committing acts of kindness, selflessness, courage, sacrifice, at every single moment all over the world, in the thick of war and in the eye of the storm.

Even in our darkest hours, we always, always, step up. There are also incredible stories of human innovation and creativity, intelligence and compassion, every day, everywhere.

Recently those of us in the U.K witnessed the heart warming response to the Grenfell Tower Fire and the terror attacks in both London Bridge and Manchester: the generosity of our fellow human beings on full and vivid display.

Msg 1  Msg 2

In Houston we saw highways filled with U.S citizens taking their own boats to help their neighbours caught in the storms. In contrast to every story of callous governments and racist demonstrations against refugees, is another story of a remote Welsh village banding together to welcome a Syrian family (Narberth population 2,400).

"There are incredible stories of human creativity, intelligence and compassion, every day, everywhere"

There are stories like these in every country in the world.

I challenge everyone reading this to join us. Let's take control of and take responsibility for the stories that are told. Because in order to strive for a happier world, we need to defend hope with all our might.

We need to share the stories of kindness and positivity, and we have the incredible power of social media at our disposal. In addition sharing these stories should be part of how we speak and what we chose to tell, what we write, what we share. This is kindness in action.

The good news is I'm obviously not the only one with this idea. There are many publications, websites and blogs committed to positive news (a few listed below), and our mainstream media is beginning to catch on. We are tired of being told to be afraid of each other. We are tired of being afraid.

Aesop Quote

Let's have all the stories. Seek them out. Give platform to those whose stories are less often told, the poor, the oppressed, the shy, and the humble. Let's not restrict ourselves to the unhappy, violent, pessimistic, gloomy ones, or to just one narrow perspective of human experience.

Statistics and studies have their place but it is stories that move hearts and change minds. We need them all, so let's find them, tell them, and in doing so take back charge of the story of us. It's the greatest story ever told.


For more inspiring stories of kindness and good news, check out:

 

Bernadette Square  Book Pic

Bernadette's new book is The Little Book of Kindness, published by Orion. It's full of practical tips on how to change your life and the world around you - along with stories of her year of kindness.

You can join her on twitter @betterussell or at www.bernadetterussell.com

We 've Always Needed Kindness

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