Ripples of kindness

by Anne Kent-Taylor,
NCT Head of Service Operations (plus NCT Volunteer)

My NCT story got off to a couple of false starts. There was the Nearly New Sale that I attended when I was six months pregnant that I left in tears after 10 minutes; there was the antenatal course that we nearly couldn’t book on to as there were no spaces; and then there were the coffee groups with the rampaging toddlers who appeared a world apart from my six week old baby.

But from those scary coffee groups came the gem of an idea which allowed my NCT story to really get started. I wasn’t the only one that was nervous about sharing space with gigantic two year olds and it felt as though there was a need for a group for parents of new babies, to share stories and build confidence.

There was no way that I could do this alone and luckily I didn’t have to. With a fabulous postnatal leader to guide me, and the support of dedicated branch volunteers, we set up a group for parents with babies under six months. It took time to get there and, by the time we were ready to run the first session, I discovered that I was pregnant with our second child.

Every week, I put my own rampaging toddler on the bus with a packed lunch, opened the church hall, set out the toys, and made the tea and coffee. I welcomed mums, hosted guest speakers, and made space for our fabulous postnatal leader to do her stuff.

The purpose of this group was to have a shared space, where parents could grow in confidence, and then move on to the branch Bumps & Babies group. But mainly, I wanted a place where we could be kind to each other – show concern and consideration for each other.

Kindness is a nice feeling to bring in in to the world and has a multiplying effect. Even a tiny act of kindness can improve someone’s day. It tells another human being that they are not alone, that someone out there is thinking of them.

Experiments using games with babies have concluded that kindness is inherent to human beings. Similar studies show the root of empathy in infancy, with mirroring in early months of life leading to the easy concern that children show to their peers in distress. Children develop compassion through acts of caring and kindness towards others, and as they grow, it can guide their actions and behaviours in positive ways.

But being kind goes way beyond the person for whom we made a coffee, or lifted their pushchair off the train, or gave them a supportive word about their parenting. Kindness is a contagion and as we emanate it we spread it.

Imagine standing at the edge of a pond with a small, smooth pebble in your hand. As you throw the pebble in to the water, the tiny burst of energy it creates sends circles gently rippling outwards. Whenever we volunteer our time, share a smile, make a coffee or hear someone’s story, we make that little splash that will ripple out further.

Others will be uplifted by our gesture and be inspired to be kinder themselves. This is where the multiplying effect comes in. When we observe an act of kindness, we are impacted by it in the same way as the recipient. Kindness impacts everyone who sees it, or even hears about it. How many people are impacted by one small act of kindness?

Our group continued all through my pregnancy. The mothers that attended became branch chair, branch treasurer, newsletter editor, nearly new sale coordinator and regional volunteer. The kindness they showed each other rippled out through their community.

Once my baby was born, I handed the group over to other volunteers to hold and share their kindness with other new parents.

My rampaging toddler is now a teenager, and the person that grew alongside that group took her Year 6 SATs this week. Last night I had the pleasure of attending parent’s evening, and looked around the room to see women who had attended that group 12 years ago. Still together, still supporting their community, still being kind.

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