Kindness and Quilting June 19, 2017 – Posted in: Advice, Relationships – Tags: acceptance, advice, children, compassion, family, gratitude, happiness, kindness, life, love, peace, relationships, self esteem
My daughters were recently given a beautiful patchwork quilt made by my beloved grandmother. In fact, it was the last thing she made before she died over 20-years ago so they are delighted and deeply touched to have it.
They are young, modern kids who love YouTube and gymnastics and shopping sprees. But they also have huge respect for anything authentic and homemade, especially things they can tell have been made with love and kindness. I’m no baker but they go nuts for one of my fairy cakes and I’ve realised it’s because something has been lovingly made for them by someone they love and it’s that which transforms a (frankly) average cupcake into something wonderful in their eyes.
The same is true of their new quilt. They understand the sentiment behind it. Someone they never met (but who loved their mummy very much) sat for hours cutting pretty, hexagonal squares and sewing them together with a stitch so fine it’s virtually invisible in order to create something uniquely beautiful. My kids find this quite awe-inspiring. They get it – the quilt is a gentle creation made for no other reason than to be kind. My grandmother loved to sew and knit and crochet so making things was both an act of self-kindness (making made her feel good) and kindness to her grateful recipients.
What’s my point? Well, it’s that kindness is hugely valuable and often lasts years beyond it’s release into the world. Kindness is the magic that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
And this applies to our daily lives.
I’ve long since realised that the way to be happy and fulfilled is to give freely of myself to the people in my life. In essence, what I’m saying is that the path to daily happiness is paved in kindness. Self-kindness and kindness to others with our words, our time and our actions.
If I wake up and ask myself, “What can I get today?” then I risk being disappointed and angry when I put my head on the pillow that night. Because I might not get exactly what I want – I might get something else, or something more, or nothing. A focus on “getting” forces me to become tightly held and limited in my outlook. It stops me from seeing the people along the way because I’m so focussed on getting what I decided it was I had to have that day. I leave no space for Life to play its part.
However, if I flip it and wake up asking myself, “What can I give today?” (a.k.a. “How can I show kindness?”), then I am much more likely to have a successful day because it’s easy to be kind (hold a door open, smile at someone, cuddle your kids, let someone out at that junction, cook your partners favourite meal) and being kind is limitless and open, and it always comes back to me in some unfathomable way.
But, kindness comes with one crucial operating instruction – it MUST be freely given with no expectation otherwise it’s not kindness but a form of coercion or control. If I hold the door open for you I do it freely to experience the joy of doing something for another person with an open heart. If you rush through the door I’ve held without thanking me and I muster my very best sarcasm to yell after you, “You’re welcome!” I am now persecuting you for not acknowledging what a kind person I am, which is manipulation and absolutely not cool.
- Be kind because it floats your boat.
- Be kind because it frees your soul.
- Be kind for the sheer hell of it.
- Be kind because you know it connects you to something greater than yourself.
- Be kind despite other people being mean – you will retain your integrity, your side of the street will be clean. Their side is their business.
- Be kind because it grows your self-esteem.
As a specialist confidence coach I know that kindness is one of the keys to high self-esteem. How do we raise our self-esteem? By doing esteem-able things (both for ourselves and others). Esteem-able things usually involve kindness so start there!
And, so back to my grandmother. She holds an incredibly special place in my heart because of her unwavering kindness. I knew I was safe with her and that she wanted only good things for me. This is a woman who was raised in the workhouse, separated from her mother and siblings. The same woman who then became a single mother in the 1940’s when that kind of thing met with harsh judgement and societal shame. She could have been embittered by the tricky conditions of her early life but she chose instead to (literally and metaphorically) sew love and kindness into the lives of her grandchildren, her friends and the people she volunteered with.
When I was young she made me a patchwork quilt. It has come everywhere with me throughout my life and now sits on a chair in my bedroom. It’s where I go to be still and set my intentions for the day. The place I decide each morning to practice kindness for the coming day…
This piece first appeared in Walnut Independent Health magazine https://www.walnutmagazine.co.uk.