Kindness

Last month, I requested information from the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (known here as CEDIES). I was surprised to receive a response at 11 in the evening, just when I was about to switch off my phone. At first, I thought it was a scam or something, but it was the help I needed. Hence, I thanked the male sender and added, “I hope you’ll receive a trophy for working very late”. He answered, “Thank you for your kind words. We have been receiving many enquiries due to our move to online application and sometimes there’s a bug in the system, so I have to work longer”.

Was he only doing his job, or he is a naturally kind and helpful person? His kindness was evident in our email exchanges afterwards.

Two weeks later, I received an email from an EU public servant at 9:08 PM on a Sunday. I thanked him for the list I requested and said, “You deserve a gold medal for working on a Sunday evening?” He wrote back explaining that he would have meetings all day on Monday and didn’t want me to be inconvenienced for not having it.

Another kind and considerate public servant! Has work ethic, mentality, or behaviour been impacted by the COVID pandemic or teleworking? I hope this doesn’t jeopardise their personal relationships.

Are these two public servants exceptions to the rule? How many kind and hardworking people stay under the radar every day? I believe such dedication and kindness at work should be recognised.

Kindness makes our world a better place – this sounds clichéd; however, the reality is kindness builds trust that develops into meaningful relationships online or in person. At work, staff who stomp on their colleagues do not last long in the same office. Unkind superiors attract disloyal or disengaged subordinates.

Several days before receiving acts of kindness from the above-mentioned civil servants, I heard on BBC that they, in collaboration with the University of Sussex in the UK, have launched a huge online research project called “Kindness Test”. Many thousands of people from all over the world have already completed it, and they will publicise their analysis early next year.

In the meantime, my Internet readings have yielded the same conclusion: acting kindly can improve one’s wellbeing and reduce or eliminate anxiousness. One of these articles mentions a neuroscientific finding that when we do something kind to another person, we experience a sense of reward comparable to receiving a present or eating chocolate.

An act of kindness has no age, gender, cultural, professional, economic and political boundaries. My friend, who’s between jobs, donated cooked meals to health workers during lockdowns. Other acts of kindness that I have witnessed are:

  • A colleague mentoring a new joiner in their company;A lady picking up trash at a bus stop;
  • A child giving used books to a classmate;
  • Neighbours and acquaintances helping someone move home, bring the furniture inside a building, or tend their gardens;
  • Individuals saying the magic words: “I love you”, “please”, "Good morning/afternoon", and “thank you” (and mean it), and “I’m sorry” when they’re at fault.

On October 14, I wanted to use the photocopier in the staff room but couldn’t remember the password, as I didn’t use it for almost two years. I sent a Whatsapp message to my colleagues; one of them responded right away (i.e. in less than one minute). That kindness contributed to making my one-hour lesson more engaging. If he had waited 15 minutes, it would have been useless for me.

Kindness is contagious; spread it around because it makes us more humane and our world a better place to live and die.

(Two nights ago, I was interviewed in French; it was my first serious conversation in this tricky language. As you’ll hear (link ''Interview avec Rolade Brizuela Berthier, citoyenne du Monde''), there’s room for improvement in terms of pronunciation. Since I live in France, I thought I didn’t need to do the latter. However, like most skills, if you don’t use it, it stagnates or even becomes rusty. This podcast is also available on Apple podcast, Spotify and Google Play. Kindly pass on this information).

(This article also appears on my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)