I have been reflecting on the importance of kindness recently. What strikes me is that acts of kindness can be random or intentional, big or small, but even the small ones can make a huge difference.
One stands out for me many years after it occurred.
When I was a junior doctor working at a large tertiary hospital, a number of the rotations required us to do overnight ward cover. These could be gruelling, particularly covering medical specialities where you would be the only doctor in the hospital looking after some seriously unwell people with very complex conditions on a number of different wards all over the site. You can’t plan the work to any great degree as the job is to respond to things that come up and need urgent attention. Weekend nights could be especially tough as the usual medical teams often hadn’t been in to review their patients during the day.
Sometimes I have nightmares that I am on overnight ward cover again, well over two decades later.
It was working one of these shifts on a Sunday night that I had a list of tasks longer than anything I had ever imagined. I was dashing up and down stairs (the lifts being archaically slow) trying to get at least the most urgent jobs taken care of before the next calls came in. Around 4am I headed back the Renal ward to review a patient with kidney failure who had developed a high fever and needed assessment, blood tests and treatment started asap.
I had a number of other equally unwell patients and didn’t know if I could physically get to do all the things I had been called to do over the remaining four hours of my shift. Despite being a hard worker and relatively efficient, I felt ill with the sheer pressure of the workload.
Having seen the patient, I only had moments to sit down to complete the paperwork. As I sat down, one of the ward nurses appeared with a mug of tea in her hand. I think my eyes may have become teary as she put it down in front of me and said, ‘You look like you need this.’
It cost her only a few minutes of her time but it made all the difference. Even though it was ordinary hospital tea it tasted incredible. It did recharge me, not just from the sustenance, but from the fact that someone cared enough to both notice that I was exhausted and overwhelmed and to do something to try to alleviate how I was feeling. Even in the healthcare industry, we could do more to look out for each other.
I can still see her face but I can’t remember her name. I don’t know if she has any idea how much her kindness helped me that night.
This humbling act of thoughtfulness stems from the deeper well of kindness that, when demonstrated, helps individuals and communities. Kindness helps bring out the best in us, be it in family or friends, a co-worker or co-creative, an acquaintance in person or online, or someone you don’t know. We won’t always know that our kindness has been appreciated but it is worth doing anyway.
How has an act of kindness made a difference to you?
How can you make a difference to someone else by being kind?
Do you have a good “cuppa” story?
Looking after others should be core for health professionals but we don’t always look after our patients, our colleagues or ourselves as well as we could. We don’t have to be health professionals to make changes to improve health. Anyone and everyone can to something (or many things) to help the health and wellbeing of others.
I see a lot of kindness in the creative community as well as in the health industry. I thank you for the kindness that you have shown me.
With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.
P.S. Although I am confident I can attribute the benefit to the kindness rather than the chemical effects of the tea, here’s an interesting article by Jeremy Dean on Tea: 6 Brilliant Effects on the Brain.
© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith