What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back? A stick …. I know it’s so old you probably fell off your dinosaur when you first heard it! But actually there is some truth to that, the first boomerangs date back approximately 10 000 years and were not designed to return, as they were used for hunting; the aim being that they would bring the prey down rather than return to the thrower. Returning boomerangs developed from these throwing sticks used for hunting and are now used mainly for leisure and I don’t know about you but they are something that has always held a degree of fascination for me and it has led me to think about things that come back.
People often talk about the boomerang generation, those “children” who leave home and come back, it is often talked about with rather negative connotations, of a child unable or unwilling to fend for themselves and so returning to the nest to be looked after. But I prefer to see it as a returning of love, that cared for and loved child will always be your child and they bring back all the love that they hold. Maybe I am an idealist!
Love and kindness also have a habit of coming back, and there is a huge push at the moment about being kind. I am sure you have seen the quote “If you can be anything, be kind” patronisingly overquoted and emblazoned in a meaningless manner on everything from T-shirts to pencil cases. The sense of it lost in a sea of superficial sanctimonious self-absorption. But let’s push that to one side and really think about kindness.
I believe that it is a state of mind, it is just part of one’s character. Some people are simply kind, they think of others before themselves, they make other people’s paths smooth whilst perhaps tripping on their own. And they do this not expecting anything in return, true altruism. They are genuinely outward looking human beings. I am sure you recognise that quality in people that you know, perhaps you are one of those people. I am fortunate to have in my life several people like this and they inspire me to be the same. So you see kindness has a way of moving forward, growing.
I remember watching a film once called, “Pay it Forward” a bit schmaltzy in places but thought provoking none the less. The premise being that if you receive an act of kindness then you should pay it forward by being kind to at least one other person. It clearly struck a wider harmonious chord and now there are websites dedicated to the act of paying it forward, and random acts of kindness.
But why bother, why be kind?
Apart from the beneficial effect that it has on others it is good for you too not just the emotional feel good feelings that you get from doing something lovely for another human but there are physical benefits too. It has been proven to lower blood pressure – an emotional hug will envelop you as your body releases oxytocin which, in turn, causes the release of nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This is what reduces blood pressure. It is reported that engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins—the brain’s natural painkiller! And that perpetually kind people have approximately 20 – 25% less cortisol ( the stress hormone) coursing around their bodies, this means that that these people age more slowly than the average person! So if those aren’t sound reasons to be kind I’m not sure what would be.
But it is the emotional well-being of kindness that is possibly the most profound. At a time when we are often filled with negative self-talk, kindness gives us the opportunity to change that inner narrative to make us feel better, so being kind to others, enables us to be kind to ourselves. It is something profound and gives us a stronger sense of self. And because we feel good about ourselves we are more likely to think more kindly towards others and repeat the action.
The kind act itself does not have to be grandiose, it’s not about attention and adulation to the giver, it shouldn’t be an act of self promotion – we’ve all seen those preening tweets and posts on social media – genuine kindness is about showing care to the recipient, thinking about their needs.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”Ghandi
In turn the recipients of kindness generally want to keep paying it forward and it has been found that a single act of kindness typically inspires several more acts of generosity. The scientific name for this chain of altruism is “upstream reciprocity” but I do think that “pay it forward” is easier to remember! We are all interconnected and kindness will change the social narrative to “we” and “us” instead of the perspective of “us” and “them”. Small, simple things. Humans helping humans. Kindness is an act of selfless love, it becomes self perpetuating and everyone can make the world a kinder place.
So where does the boomerang come into this? The ripple-effect of kind acts – the way in which receiving an unexpected moment of generosity from a stranger can cause us to become more aware of the needs of those around us and to take action to be a giver of kindness and ultimately someone will show you that random act of kindness and it will make you smile, gladden your heart and make your day. Kindness will come back.