This little gem of a book from Piero Ferrucci will probably be one of the few this year that may make a permanent place on my bookshelf.
It has been a very long time since I have read a book that I feel I can genuinely recommend to everyone I know. It may or may not resonate deeply with you, but it should at least stimulate some thought about the place of kindness in its many forms in your daily life.
There are nineteen chapters, including the conclusion. Each chapter is named for and discusses an experience, behaviour or emotional trait that impacts on and is impacted by kindness. Here is the list: honesty; warmth; forgiveness; contact; sense of belonging; trust; mindfulness; empathy; humility; patience; generosity; respect; flexibility; memory; loyalty; gratitude; service; joy; and the conclusion.
It is quite hard to pull out a few quotes to give you an idea of what the book is about and how it is thought provoking. Everyone who reads it will undoubtedly get something different from it based on their own life experience and current situation. Naturally some aspects of Ferrucci’s examples and explanations resonate more as they apply to your own life.
However I have attempted to pull out some snippets to give you a taster of what is inside. I could have quoted half the book but one has to be sensible about these things. I just hope my choices will stimulate an interest in a visit to your local library to read the rest.
In the chapter on Respect.
It may seem strange that by changing a thought in my mind I can change a trait in another person. Yet it is only strange if we undervalue the importance of our mind, and if we forget the many ways in which we continually interact. Various studies have demonstrated the Pygmalion phenomenon – if I change my perception of you, you will change. The students who are seen by the teacher as the most intelligent become the most intelligent. The employees who are seen by their bosses as the most competent and efficient become the most competent and efficient. Our perception is like a ray of light falling on a plant – it makes it more visible, nourishes it, stimulates its growth. Think of how many talents and qualities in everyone that are not fully manifest because they are not seen.
In the chapter on Warmth.
Like babies, we adults also need warmth – psychological warmth. Physical, too: sometimes we need to be touched and cuddled like babies. But mostly we need someone to talk to, someone who knows and appreciates us. Someone who cares about us. Warmth then becomes a metaphor. It is no longer a biological necessity, it is a quality we see in someone’s eyes, hear in her voice, sense in the way she greets us. It is at the very heart of kindness.
In the chapter on Mindfulness.
Attention is thus a form of kindness, and lack of attention is the greatest form of rudeness. Sometimes it is a form of violence, especially when children are concerned. Negligence is justifiably regarded as abuse when it reaches an unacceptable level, but in small doses it is one of the most common childhood ignominies. In someone else’s presence we can hang up the sign “Back soon” and keep thinking our own thoughts. Inside our heads are thousands of possible trains of thought, seductive and terrifying, all clamoring for our attention. We can listen to them, lose ourselves in them, and the person in front of us might not even notice. But we can also pay attention. Inattention is cold and hard. Attention is warm and caring. It makes our best possibilities flower.
And the final paragraph of the conclusion:
Strange perhaps, and paradoxical, but true: The most sensible way to further our own interests, to find our own freedom, and to glimpse our own happiness, is often not to pursue these goals directly, but to look after other people’s interests, to help other people be freer from fear and pain, to contribute to their happiness. Ultimately, it is all very simple. There is no choice between being kind to others and being kind to ourselves. It is the same thing.
I hope you receive and recognise an act of kindness in your life today. Ideally, I hope that you give an act of kindness to someone who needs it today too. A smile, a five minute chat, an offer to pick up something from the supermarket and save someone else the effort. All of which go a long way to bringing a spot of kindness and goodwill into another person’s life.
Have a happy day !