I put considerable time and consideration into what could make a valuable and supportive blog post to benefit the most readers in the widest of situations we find ourselves in leaving what can only be said was an extraordinary year. I thought of many different tips and tools for resilience, flexibility, mental fitness, positivity and all the ‘serious stuff’ that is needed at the end of such a serious year.
In the end, my inspiration came from such a simple, yet profoundly powerful, interaction.
After a day of challenging coaching and supervision cases, I was coming out of my office into grey skies and pouring December rain with my head down and my hood up in a mad dash for my car, when I almost tripped over a lady crouched down on the pavement. As I stopped to apologise, I saw how stressed she was holding the handles of her wet paper shopping bag in one hand and trying to rescue her damaged groceries from the mess on the pavement.
Without thinking, I offered to go and grab her a new shopping bag from the boot of my car and, as I crossed the street to bring it back to her there were two other ladies on the opposite pavement looking over empathetically. I joked that, ‘We all know what that feels like, don’t we?’ and they crossed the street too to offer the lady help and anecdotes of the same thing happening to them.
And there we were, four women standing in the rain, smiling with our eyes behind our masks and doing our best to support and connect, whilst simultaneously keeping our distance.
It was just a shopping bag. It was just a gesture of friendliness from the other two ladies and I, yet I felt lighter and happier on my way home because of it and wondered what the message was in this simple moment and six key things came to mind. The six deeply powerful aspects in that fleeting moment included;
· Empathy & understanding when we are all concerned with our own 2020 issues.
· Connection & belonging in a year of forced disconnection and loneliness.
· Support & understanding in a year when fear has us crossing the street to avoid each other.
· Dignity & respect in a year of devastating loss.
· Humour & lightheartedness in this most serious and dark time.
· Warmth & kindness in a cold and wintery environment
Such a short exchange can make all the difference to each of us, whatever the situation we find ourselves in. I have no idea what these ladies` circumstances were, but I do know that this short, simple moment of connection was somehow valuable to us all.
I was greeted at home by my daughter wearing a ‘If You Can be Anything, be Kind’ T-shirt and literally right there before my eyes, was my goodbye to 2020 blog message.
This doesn’t mean that all the more complex coaching concepts and practical tools I was considering don’t have an important place in supporting the core issues that 2020 brought us, but rather that, if each of us could begin by offering the free, yet priceless, gift of kindness and compassion towards others, we might be surprised by the difference that makes, not only to them, but to us.
If this sounds like flowery nonsense to you, Google ‘Mirror-Neurons’ and the neurological foundation of ‘what goes around comes around’. The same mirror neurons in the brain that make us flinch when we see someone else get hurt, cry at a someone else’s tears, yawn when someone else yawns or giggle at someone else’s laughter mean that where we offer kindness (or any of the elements mentioned above) we can feel kindness and so on mirrored back to us. My gesture and the entire interaction didn’t take more than a couple of minutes and the price of a secondhand shopping bag, but it made all the difference, not only for the person receiving the kindness, but to all of us.
We are social beings. Our survival depends on our understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others. Mirror neurons allow us to understand other people’s mind, not only through conceptual reasoning but through imitation. Feeling, not thinking.”
– G. Rizzolatti – First to study mirror neurons in the brain in 1996.
Adi Jaffe, Ph.D reminds us in Psychology Today (psychologytoday.com 2020) about studies demonstrating that, while happiness is more contagious than sadness, unawareness of our own, negatively emotional state can have a profound impact on those around us. I don’t know about you, but I know I’m not alone in sensing the positive solidarity of the spring lockdown and then the fear and resentment growing as the year progressed.
Are you aware of your own emotional state and how contagious it might be?
What emotions are you reflecting?
What about a New Year resolution to leave small gifts of kindness in front of other people’s mirror wherever you go in 2021? Starting today, something as simple as a kind word of thanks, making sure your smile reaches beyond your mask to your eyes, acknowledging and appreciating others around you, a small positive gesture or offering a genuine compliment to people in your life.
Share joy and lightheartedness kindness and enjoy the positive light mirrored back out to you as we close the 2020 chapter and turn the page to welcome the New Year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR