The Story of Kindness
23 Sep 2017 | Bernadette Russell
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
Listening to people in bars and cafes. Talking to strangers.
Asking questions. Being curious. Collecting.
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
"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.
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
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
It's taken me a while to fully appreciate where storytelling and
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
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
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.
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
"There are incredible stories of human
creativity, intelligence and compassion, every day,
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.
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
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
You can join her on twitter @betterussell or at www.bernadetterussell.com