It was World Kindness Day on Monday and in the spirit of this rather fabulous annual festival and given that my beloved friend Pauline would have turned 50 last week, I am including a wonderful and inspiring article she wrote for Trawler newspaper back in 2018.  I’m extremely sad to say that she passed away a year later but she left a wonderful legacy behind her not to mention the hundreds of people whose lives she impacted in such a positive way.  

It's Cool to be Kind

by Pauline Godfrey

Sometimes it seems our televisions and newspapers are full of nothing but reports of disharmony, disunity, cynicism and conflict.  They can leave us questioning our ability to coexist happily.  But do they reflect how we live day-to-day in our communities?
At the start of the summer holidays, I discovered my breast cancer from four years ago had returned.  Stage IV cancer in my liver and bones.  A planned holiday of a lifetime to Japan with my seven-year-old son Frank had to be cancelled and instead, a lifetime of treatment was soon underway, starting with a long course of weekly chemotherapy.
Wow, where's the good news right?  Well, there is some.  It's about how we really live together as a society, as a community.  The kindness shown by friends, neighbours, colleagues and as Blanche Dubois experienced, strangers, is a much better example of how our society works and how community is still thriving.  People care.  They really do.
We all receive requests for sponsorship from people raising money in the memory of loved ones, we are stopped in the street by charity collectors asking for our support, and as a nation, we are generous givers.  Cancer Research UK, Macmillan and Marie Curie receive a total of over £630 million in donations every year.  But there is one thing that truly makes a difference on a day-to-day basis when you're having cancer treatment and a less than ideal prognosis: it's kindness.
It's the meals that people cook and leave on your doorstep.  It's the messages of support and funny jokes they send on WhatsApp.  The flowers.  The poetry books. The apple crumbles.  The soup.  It's the offer of lifts when you're unable to drive because of pain or too much morphine.  It's your neighbour taking out your bins every week because you can't lift them anymore.  And she takes them because she's kind.  Not because you've asked her to, or because she thinks she should, but because she knows it's a job that needs doing and it will help.
People send letters and cards in the post.  People I don't even know very well but who are kind, send cards and messages.  Thinking of you.  You can do this.  You got this.  A few simple but kind words can make all the difference to my morning.
Last week we received a note, hand-delivered and anonymous (see picture above).  It's from somebody who wants no thanks, who  just wants to help.  Because they're kind.  This gesture is unusual of course, it involves a lot of money.  But it has brought added benefits for me and Frank.  It has triggered us to think of lots of places we could go to and things we'd like to do together.  It's enabled us to be kind to ourselves, to get our heads up and look at where we could go and and what we could do.  It's so easy to get stuck in the rut of the routine of chemotherapy.  But I'm not poorly all the time, and with a bit of planning, we can be adventurous and make new memories.
The acts of kindness that we have received over the past few weeks have been varied.  Kindness is not just about giving.  Sometimes it's simply about how people react: it's kind to be sympathetic, it's kind to walk slowly when I'm short of breath in the playground, it's kind to not get upset in front of Frank.
And it's not just about me and Frank.  The people closest to me are in turn being supported by their friends, their families and their employers.  I was rather unwell during the first half of the summer holidays.  I needed a lot of support and care, it was a difficult time.  What made it better for all of us were the people being kind, considerate and thoughtful to the people caring for me.  While my loved ones were doing my shopping, cooking and pharmacy runs, their friends stepped up and helped with their washing up, sending them messages of support and giving them the time they needed to be with me.
Life on treatment continues, and of course life goes on.  School has begun again for Frank; friends and family settle back into their routines.  I settle into a new normal, a new routine.  I need time to rest and recover from my weekly chemo sessions, I have scans and appointments to attend, I'm still working a bit, and I have to make sure we have Weetabix in the cupboard and Frubes in the fridge! I have to make time for visitors, for coffee, for lunch, and to eat cake (it's tough!)  My book club has created a breakaway splinter group: a morning meeting with tea and pastries as I'm not really fit for our usual boozy Friday night gatherings.  That's an act of kindness.  It's thoughtful, it's considerate, it's caring.
Life is busy. It's not easy and it's definitely not always fun.  But the kind-heartedness and thoughtfulness I have seen every single day since this crazy, unwelcome journey began, keep me going.
Everybody is affected by cancer in one way or another at some point in their life. By being kind, being compassionate and helpful, adults are being good role models.  The acts of kindness are seen and experienced by our children too.  They understand the importance of sympathy and empathy.  Frank’s teenage cousins have been to visit him, to play football and Lego and give him their time.  Frank's school friends, although only seven years old, are caring and considerate.
There is genuine kindness everywhere. It's the key to how we really live together.  I realise life isn't a constant flow of flowers and chocolates and that people are not always sweetness and light.  I know loneliness and isolation are a problem and of course, there is conflict in homes and neighbourhoods.  But when life gets tough and we need help, it seems to me, people are there for each other.  They leave aside their personal issues and think of others.  Aesop said, "No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted".  That's true.  People are kind, sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a grand way, but it's always valued.  Thank you.

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