What could a priest, a waitress, a nurse, and a maths teacher have in common? It’s not short-term popularity, a healthy bank balance, or a pushy nature. It’s simply kindness. Now, imagine a world where this common quality becomes a way of life. Maybe it doesn’t sound very sexy, but it’s definitely worth a try… Why, you ask?
We head off to meet another kind soul with a crew from the College of Media and Journalism. The train journey passes pleasantly and a person has time to think. In February 2016, under the auspices of the Karel Janeček Foundation, we launched the #kindsoul project, which finds kind people and honours them for their good deeds. At this point in time, we have 10 beautiful stories from all over the Czech Republic and we are going to keep going. Do you think this type of person is dying out? Appearances can be deceptive! There are plenty of these good souls around; it’s just that nobody knows about them…
Mirek Dušín, Mother Teresa, Hana Vaňousová
What do they have in common? Homo Sapiens Kind Soul is a wise person who is kind at the same time.
Humility is one of their character traits. These people devote their free time and sometimes even money to their good deeds. But most of all they give a piece of their heart. Anyone can become a kind soul; no special skills are necessary. You don’t have to imagine someone like Mirek Dušín or Mother Teresa! You can show kindness at work, in school, or on the street, i.e. practically anywhere… What does a typical #kindsoul look like?
Vlasta Říhová – 59 years old, Havířov. Vlasta helps mothers who find themselves in difficulty and she invites some of them to her home for Christmas dinner. She set up a Facebook group called Havířov Mothers in Need (Maminky v nouzi Havířov), which already has more than 850 members.
Miroslav Bouška – 79 years old, Prague. Miroslav looks after stray cats and does so despite the fact that he is not in the best of health. He buys cat food from his own modest pension.
Vendulka Koupilová – 38 years old, Senice na Hané. Vendulka is a nurse who tends to patients outside of the doctor’s surgery and looks after them directly in their own home. She brings them bandages, gives them injections, collects their medicine, and helps sort out their official paperwork… On top of this, she also organises children’s camps in her spare time.
Otec Šebestián – 50 years old, Moravská Třebová. For more than 10 years, this priest has been looking after the homeless.
He has found a home in the church buildings he administers for around 50 “lost souls” and more are on the way. He is a rare example of how it is still possible these days to provide tangible and effective assistance “outside the system.”
Lenka Frková, Anežka Jedličková – , Praha západ (Prague West). These young women are united in their love for dogs. The two friends decided to change the lives of these animals and established “Voříškov” – a small shelter where they help abandoned dogs.
Kindness and science
Kindness is an area of study for positive psychology and there is scientific research which shows that people who do good deeds are more content and less stressed. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher and author of The How of Happiness, discovered during her studies that a selected group of people who carry out five acts of kindness per day in the course of one week felt considerably happier and this feeling stayed with them for many days afterwards. In his book, Flourish, Martin Seligman, a pioneering figure in positive psychology, also recommends exercises in kindness.
Try to remember when you last did something kind for someone. Even the very idea of a kind act can improve your mood. For example, I remember going to Třeboň with my boyfriend last year. There was a girl on the train who had no ticket. She wanted to buy one from the conductor with her card, but this was not possible. He told her that she would have to get off at the next station. My boyfriend intervened and paid for her ticket. The sight of this young woman’s glowing eyes remained in my head for a long time afterwards…
It’s possible to experience a classic “kind” situation at bus and tram stops. Recently, I had to run for my bus and the driver opened the doors for me at the last minute, even though he was not at all enthusiastic about it. I gave him a smile and when I was getting off I gave him a badge with the inscription #kindsoul. You would not believe how his face suddenly brightened and he even smiled. I’ll remember this situation for a long time to come…
What are the advantages of being kind?
You will experience joy from the good deeds you do. You will feel useful and more balanced. You’ll be devoting your time to something that makes sense and paradoxically this will give you more energy. You can change the atmosphere in society with your behaviour and inspire others. Last but not least, kindness is good for your health. This new way of life will only bring positives for you. Test it out for yourself with the “Random Act of Kindness” exercise – one day a week carry out five carefully planned good deeds. For each act of kindness, write down what you did and how you felt while you were doing it…
1. Call someone whom you haven’t heard from in a long time
2. Make coffee/tea for a colleague at work
3. Smile at the woman behind the counter when you’re out shopping
4. Make an unexpected visit to a grandparent or an elderly person
5. Mind a friend’s child for them
6. Surprise your partner with his/her favourite meal
7. Register on the website dobrovolnik.cz
8. Offer help to a neighbour
9. Buy the magazine Nový prostor on the street; this publication is sold by homeless people
10. Donate blood
11. Help a mother lift her pram onto the tram
12. When it’s raining, offer to let someone share your umbrella
You can nominate a kind soul at www.nadacekj.cz/laskavec