Dave Buonaguidi (artist Real Hackney Dave) asked me to write a little something about kindness. It’s incredibly kind of him to even think of me as a kindness connoisseur! I think it’s probably because I was on BBC Radio 4 the other day asking the government to stop being mean and show more kindness when talking about the 800,000 hungry kids who are slipping through the net and not getting a free school meal.
Don’t get me wrong, I do my best to be kind, but you can always do better, right? If you’ll allow me to be philosophical for two sentences, kindness shouldn’t be a competition, it shouldn’t be a transaction and it shouldn’t be seen as a badge of honour. I genuinely think it’s something beautiful, intimate and something that means you can sleep well at the end of the day. When all is said and done, it’s what really matters in life. (And that’s three sentences, sorry!)
Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription
I am old enough to know that when things get tricky you understandably look inwards to protect yourself and your family. This is normal, but in a funny kind of way it also means acts of kindness that have an impact outside of your family mean more.
We all know the coming year is going to be really challenging, so on a personal level, I’m making a real effort to think about what more I can do to make a difference. May I say thank you for your kindness in buying The Big Issue? It’s disgraceful that we still have homeless people, so thank you for your contribution. There are many countries where homelessness isn’t the norm. But that got me thinking: what epitomises kindness? The possibilities are infinite, but one example springs to mind.
I’ll never forget filming in Palestine on a food research trip. I met this 13-year-old baker making this extraordinary flatbread. His talent and technique took my breath away. I spent an hour trying to make the same bread with him, with average results – I knew it would take me years to get there. The talent of this young man nearly brought me to tears. I was humbled and wanted to film with him. There was a poster in the camera shot and understandably we needed to be very sensitive about what it said, because of the tension between Israel and Palestine, so we asked our translator. He wrote it down and gave it to me. It said, “If you can’t afford bread, just take what you need.” Wow.