People will bypass opportunities for Kindness for one of three main reasons:
-Houston Kraft, author of Deep Kindness
In Part I of this 3 part series, I talked about how feeling like we don't have the ability to help, to fix a situation, is one reason it's hard to be kind. Though we might have the awareness to identify a gap where a kindness could bridge the gap, we stay in the background.
In Part II I'd like to take up Houston's Kraft's second point: Insecurity. "When I'm afraid of a thing, sometimes I avoid that thing. Every compassionate action we take exposes us to a variety of risks like being judged, embarrassed, dismissed or laughed at, or feeling like a failure. The most frustratingly near-direct correlation is this: the more you care, the more likely you are to get hurt. You can't invest in passion without risking some level of pain. If I am worried about failing, or being judged by others people walking by, I may be too scared to stop and engage with her." (Houston Kraft, Deep Kindness, page 28-29)
With this in mind, consider this story that a participant wrote in one of our Narrative Kindness workshops:
While on a home visit as a student nurse in a client's home the nurse I was with was there to provide medications for a lady who lived alone. When we were invited into the home the nurse struck up a conversation easily as they had known each other for a little while. The nurse and myself were invited to sit down and have a cup of tea. While this wasn't what usually what happened the nurse happily accepted and we sat and talked for 5 minutes more. At the end the client said she was looking forward to seeing the nurse again the next day.
"While this wasn't was usually happened..." There are reasons we don't step out of our usual routines. It keeps us on time. It keeps us safe. The simple act of staying for 5 more minutes involved moving outside the professional role of the nurse and into the role of companion, friend, and ally. This is not easy.
Let's take a moment to break down this kindness knowing that AGENT + INTENTION + ACTION + PERMISSION are the components needed for an act of kindness to be perceived as kind.
Gap identified: loneliness
Intention: to help someone not be lonely
Act: accepting the cup of tea + accepting she will be delayed
Permission: an invitation was extended
In the healthcare professions there are boundaries, professional boundaries we need to respect to insure those we provide care for feel safe and secure. But when do we see those gaps, small human needs, that we can help bridge without compromising professional boundaries. When we can extend human connection and human kindness to make the life of someone just a little bit better than we found it.
Now consider another story:
I was a patient in a mental health hospital. It was raining heavily one morning, and I had to go out to an appointment. Prior to this, I saw my doctor. He asked what I was doing next and I said, "going out but I don't have an umbrella." He spontaneously offered to loan me his umbrella. He escorted me out to his car (with him getting wet himself) to get the large umbrella from his car. I will never forget how special and cared for that made me feel, and how protected from the weather I was!
Gap identified: raining, no umbrella
Intention: to help someone stay out of the rain
Act: offering umbrella + going to car to get it.
Permission: not expressly discussed though implied given the writer's response to the action of the doctor
The doctor may well have hesitated. What would someone think? Is this getting too personal? Would he be judged by his staff? Would he be late for his next appointment? I might have hesitated. Though I could see the need (identify the gap) I may not have felt it proper to jump in and help in that moment. I might have suggested there may be a spare umbrella in the waiting room. I know this seems crazy but in the nanosecond it takes to make these decisions...to step out of our comfort zone and act...I suspect we operate on impulse, on emotion. And then we backfill our emotions with logic. I could have helped but I didn't think it was my place. Or I could have helped but I might make our relationship -- doctor and patient -- seem to personal.
It all happens so fast. The decision to say "yes" to a cup of tea and 5 minutes more. The decision to walk out into the rain to get an umbrella for someone in need. I'm sure there are more interpretations of these stories than I've offered here. Mine is but one perspective and there are so many other ways to see things. But I think we can take away that sometimes we have to set aside what others might think of us, whether or not we might embarrass ourselves, or that we might be judged more harshly by others for stepping in. It's not easy. Even with the best of intentions, we may find ourselves stepping back instead of stepping up to act kindly.
Keep calm and be kind
Lorraine & Vivian