RICH OR POOR?

By Tracey Cabache, Director of Torbay Community Development Trust

 

As the year comes to a close it is a time to reflect and think about the future. 2022 was a challenging year, and 2023 may not be much better. But we still have a lot to be thankful for. Adversity brings out the best in us, and I have witnessed so many acts of kindness in the last 12 months that I can’t be anything other than optimistic.

Take, for example, the 700 voluntary sector groups in Torbay who go above and beyond to support people, animals, our heritage, flora and fauna. The 250 volunteers who have given their time for free at our Vaccination Centre for almost 2 years, the people who donate and those who pack the food for our foodbanks, and the 150 small groups that re-emerged this year in our local communities as the risk of Covid lessened – they drink coffee, chat, knit, craft, play snooker or skittles, play with lego, have lunch etc. etc. always inviting in those that are lonely or isolated. The volunteers who drive our community buses, the residents who answer the calls to our Community Helpline, the Rotary Club who arrived at our office door last week with over 100 wrapped presents for local children – so it goes on.

The national media tells us we are poor – our bills are going to rise; inflation and interest rates are escalating. But we are only poor if we measure our wealth in monetary terms. Don’t get me wrong – we do need to look after ourselves and in the complex system we now live in things need to be purchased.

But what makes us happy? What makes us smile? What do we remember at the end of our day? What was in our shopping bag or the kind words of the checkout staff? Earlier this year BBC Radio 4 and the University of Sussex announced the results of their Kindness Test. More than 60,000 people answered a series of questions about their experience of kindness and how kindness is viewed within society at large.

What did they discover? Three-quarters of people said they received kindness from close friends or family quite often or nearly all the time. Two-thirds of respondents think the pandemic has made us kinder. People who regularly receive lots of acts of kindness have higher levels of wellbeing. But the study also found that ‘people who carry out more kind acts or even just notice that other people are carrying out kind acts also have higher levels of wellbeing on average’. When they asked people where kindness takes place, the home came top, followed by medical settings, the workplace, green spaces and shops. The research also found that income makes little difference to how kind people are. The most common acts of kindness are those where people respond to a direct request for help. But we also know that lots of people are reluctant to ask for help.

People were also asked what might stop them from being kind and the top reason they gave was that they were afraid their actions might be misinterpreted. It’s a tricky picture – some people do not feel that can ask for help, even though we know by giving someone the opportunity to help we are making them feel good. And then some people want to help but fear they might be seen to be nosey or interfering. Lastly, the study found that people who talk to strangers see and receive more kindness.

I say for 2023 – let’s be brave. Let’s talk to each other even if we don’t know one another. Let’s just all ask for help when we need it. Let’s give some kindness. Let’s not allow our cultural reserve to stand in the way of these powerful exchanges and we will all be much richer for it.

Sparklers photo courtesy of Freepik.com

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