Today I had a negative thought. I found myself thinking that someone who I have been kind to is being unkind to me. Perhaps they’re not (I do have a tendency for introspection) but nevertheless it prompted my thoughts on everyday kindness.
I came to the conclusion that society is slowly changing to a more self-centred view. Perhaps people are so immersed in their own lives that they do not realise that they’re being unkind to others, though I am certain that some unkindness in this world is deliberate. It’s perhaps an unwanted side-effect of doing a kindness project: noticing kindness and thererefore its antithesis everywhere you go.
Modern society has made huge progressions in many ways but it has also changed in less desirable ways too. Whereas once upon a time, as the saying goes, it took a village to raise a child, now it takes the parent(s) with less and less involvement of others. People are less trusting and less kind. Utilitarianism is now obscure, almost laughable. A sense of entitlement pervades; a sense that we should be self-sufficient, focusing on the individual, on our own needs. We have the apparent need to ‘treat ourselves’, to have ‘me’ time. We see it everywhere. It’s the parking in a ‘parent and child’ or a disabled space because you’re “only going to be five minutes”. It’s the doing things because “it doesn’t harm anyone”. It’s the “because you’re worth it” mentality.
It is the Generation Y effect (those born from the early 80s to mid-90s), those who want better than their parents’ generation and feel a sense of disappointment when their expectations do not reach reality, such is their feeling of entitlement. In the 80s there was a growing sense of needing to improve the lives of the next generation, for it to be better than what the parents had. But the unintentional effect of that has been a generation of young adults who misunderstand the meaning and purpose of work and, dare I say it, the meaning of life. The previous generation of hard workers, who would take a job simply through the need to provide for their family has given rise to a generation of people who need to be fulfilled in their job. Their job serves their own well-being and sense of achievement, not just as a means to provide for themselves and their families. It’s this need for self-satisfaction that contributes to our now self-oriented society:
a society that loves a good-old egoportrait, as is the Canadian neologism for a selfie (a much more accurate term, don’t you think?);
a society where we chop and change jobs to please ourselves, to gain more of a work-life balance, because we’re not feeling fulfilled or worthwhile;
a society where a successful career is an expectation and it’s more the case of which path to choose.
It is no wonder that this ‘millennium generation’ has landed itself with the epithet “the ME-llenials”.
I am not going to pretend that this has escaped me completely (after all, I am on the first cusp of Generation Y myself). Nor will I say that job-satisfaction etc. are not important considerations (after all, life is too short, as I know only too well). Yet, the egocentrism prevalent in society troubles me. Britain is very much in unstable times. People have lost sight of the big things. And the big things are sometimes the smallest of things.
The point of this post? Let’s rekindle the once-frequent everyday kindness of folk. It’s there, of course (and I’m aware this post is very much a generalisation of generation), but it is most definitely less prevalent. People are too busy to be kind. Or they’re choosy of who is worthy of their kindness. They have their careers, their families, their errands to run and their because-I’m-worth-it moments. They do not see the bigger picture. Being unkind serves no purpose.
If you have nothing to give, give your time. If not your time, a smile. A kind word. A reply to a message. A returned call. An RSVP. A how are you? asked with the intention of actually wanting to know the answer where the person feels that they can give more than the usual “ok, thanks. You?”
Let’s not pretend that anyone is any more important than anyone else. Let’s just be kind.