When my son was born, I wished for two things for him. That he would grow to be healthy, and that he would grow to be kind. Last week I remembered my wish when I read a quote by Abraham Herschel. He wrote, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” It got me to thinking - why isn’t the transmission of kindness at least one of the main objectives in more of our schools?
In several schools in India ‘Kindness’, is an integral part of the curricula, but in many it isn’t. Obviously in Buddhist schools, kindness and compassion are at the centre of the curricula. In Gandhi inspired, and many religious schools learning to be kind plays a prominent part, but many schools in the land of Buddha and Gandhi, and numerous other compassionate religious leaders, still do not place great emphasis on the transmission of kindness. At a time when throughout the world many mainstream schools are introducing kindness as central part of their curricula our school system is ignoring this attribute.
In the US, there has been great growth in the teaching of kindness in recent years. It started back in 1982 when a woman named Ann Herbert wrote the suggestion, Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty on a place mat in a restaurant, and left it for the next customer to find. From that inauspicious beginning it spread throughout the world calling on all of us to lives of caring and compassion.
In 1993 a book was published entitled ‘Random Acts of Kindness, true stories of acts of kindness’. It set off a chain reaction. Articles appeared in nearly every newspaper in the U.S.A, and hundreds of radio stations devoted airtime to the cause. Later that year California College professor, Chuck Wall, heard a radio report of "another random act of senseless violence" and urged his human-relations students to commit random acts of senseless kindness. The concept continued to spread and now there are websites, bumper stickers, foundations, and thousands of schools around the world urging all us to spread the practice of committing random acts of senseless kindness. There is even an ‘Acts of Random Kindness Week’ where organisations churches, temples, schools, charities, companies and colleges come together to perform senseless acts of kindness.
In our society, many individuals are often only charitable to the ‘deserving’ poor, and only kind and generous to relatives or PLU’s (People Like Us).
Even people of a kindly nature only practise calculated acts of charity or kindness. But we should also encourage each other and our children to perform acts of kindness without deliberation. Children should learn that kindness is it’s own reward and is both liberating and ennobling. Hopefully giving our children the therapeutic effect of acting kindly will lead to greater things so that the "random act" becomes a "sustained" one.
A world where people are kind for no other reason than to be kind would be a wonderful place. If our children can learn the personal joy that comes with a random act of kindness or an act of senseless beauty – they will have taken a small step to their personal contribution to a better self and a better humanity. As Gandhi said "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
(Abha Adams is education consultant.)