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Kindness is at the heart of strong communities

A new study from Carnegie UK Trust finds that small acts of kindness go a long way in helping combat loneliness and isolation, as Zoe Ferguson reports.

Talking about kindness in a public policy context is not comfortable.  In the face of the urgency of challenges of inequality and austerity it can feel irrelevant, ‘soft’ and too personal.

But kindness is an important, often underestimated, virtue to hold and something we are perhaps all guilty of taking for granted, ignoring even, in a fast moving society.

For those of us who are time poor and have lots of people around us, we don’t always appreciate how a simple act of kindness can impact an individual, and, in turn, society.

‘Having somewhere welcoming to meet, gather

or just bump into each other makes a big difference’

Loneliness and isolation is a growing epidemic and continues to be one of the biggest challenges to the health of our communities. Age Scotland found that at least 100,000 older people feel lonely most or all of the time, and twice as many go half a week or more with no visitors or phone conversations.

A report from the Scottish Government suggested that some older people visit their doctor every week or ride the bus all day for company. Loneliness is as damaging to health as poverty and poor housing, however, it is no longer an issue exclusive to the elderly population but a concern for all with significant consequences for both individuals’ mental and physical wellbeing, and social cohesion.

It’s not hard to fathom the power of kindness in combating loneliness and isolation, and in turn creating stronger communities. The ‘Place of Kindness’ report from Carnegie UK Trust demonstrates that not only are some communities across the country already using kindness to battle loneliness successfully, but there is an opportunity for everyone to take responsibility, take action and do better

The first six months of 2017 have seen a number of life-changing events take place across the UK. Both the London and Manchester attacks instilled a sense of togetherness – people of Britain, of all races and cultures, have come together as one to stand against terrorism. These events have brought social cohesion to the forefront and shown examples of where kindness can come and be facilitated easily. In these cases, as a society we couldn’t ignore the need for kindness or the many opportunities to be kind.

The Carnegie study, in partnership with local organisations across Scotland, demonstrated that simple things make a huge difference. Whether it’s wearing a ‘Friendly Dumfries‘ badge, a daily chat at the checkout or smiling to others in your community who potentially could not have spoken to another person in days, it’s the little things that matter.

Having somewhere welcoming to meet, gather or just bump into each other makes a big difference. In Moredun, the warmth created by preparing and sharing food together at the Community Cook Club run by Cyrenians is tangible.  For some, this is a rare occasion or the only time they have been out of their own home for months. It is hard to believe, among the clink of cups and ready banter.

We need to challenge the idea that providing ‘community’ is someone else’s job. The truth is we all can and should take action. Individuals, charities, local businesses and government all have a role to play in creating the conditions for kindness, combating loneliness and creating stronger communities. The onus is on all of us within society to recognise, reward and celebrate kindness and ensure that it becomes embedded within our communities.

There are many factors impacting the level of loneliness and isolation in society. Kindness is just one of the many solutions. But by accepting that kindness is ‘personal’ and therefore taking it upon ourselves to make a difference, as a society we can combat this growing epidemic.

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Heather Henry
Heather Henry
6 years ago

Well done Zoe. Great work.

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