The many faces of kindness ...

Posted: Friday 19th June 2020

It was mental health awareness week a little while ago, and this year the theme was kindness. People shared lots of messages about acts of kindness and celebrated its impacts. A few people also commented that kindness on its own isn’t enough given the nature and extent of the issues which bring about responses of a ‘mental health’ nature. We must say, whilst we get their point and agree with its premise, we found ourselves wondering about the full potential of kindness. Because of course, kindness can underpin a wide variety of ways of being. Kindness doesn’t arise only in the ‘being nice’ family of behaviours, thoughts and words.

Part of our MyST approach is to provide a 24/7 on call service to all of birth and foster families, so that they can have us with them whenever the need arises. And naturally, in caring for children with complex needs, the need for additional support frequently does arise outside of 9-5. Our team members have a variety of relationships with providing the on call service themselves. But generally, our experience is twofold. Being pulled away from our own family lives during the nights and weekends to deal with stressful circumstances can induce guilt, worry and tiredness. And yet, we wouldn’t miss the opportunities to be there for the children and families that we care about, and to enact the principles that we are deeply committed to. Often, we’ve noticed, it is kindness that helps to drive us through the guilt, worry and tiredness to be there.

Sometimes in our work, on call and during the day, we draw upon kindness to develop gentle and careful relationships with children and families. Sometimes, we draw upon fierce kindness to challenge unwise words and actions with responses akin to ‘Stop that right now. Just pack it in!’. Might this be a version of being cruel to be kind? Sometimes we draw upon kindness to help us to bear the sense of powerlessness of being unable to dig someone else out of their experience or problem. In this way, we draw upon kindness towards ourselves to tolerate our current limitations.

Perhaps the recent ideas about kindness being necessary but not sufficient are indeed valid. We’re still unsure. But even so, the many faces of kindness cannot be underestimated. Even those which aren’t the obviously pretty ones.

Jen & Jael

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