Last year, during a poetry workshop called ‘Writing for Comfort’, I came across ‘Small Kindnesses’ by American poet Danusha Laméris. The poem felt like life wrapped in a cotton ball. It felt snug, like a warm blanket of love. The premise, so simple, yet infused with an unfathomable depth, left me awestruck. It taught me that more than the craft, it’s the intent of your words, that matters. ‘Small Kindnesses’ is the hope we need in our lives today. I’d like to quote my favourite lines from the poem.
//Mostly, we don’t want to
harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee
and to say thank you to the person handing
Simplicity is the jewel in this crown. Not just of words, but simplicity of action as well. You don’t need to do big charity to be compassionate.
The book that I speak of is ‘My Act of Heart’, Ideated and Curated by Anjali G Sharma and Deepika Ahuja. As the tagline mentions, it is about ‘Celebrating Real Acts of Compassion by Children from around the World’.
What does compassion mean to you? How do you practice it? Should you have lots of money to be compassionate?
The stories featured in this book talk about everyday kindnesses, as mentioned in Laméris’ poem. Understanding compassion is no rocket science. It doesn’t need degrees or certifications. In fact, you needn’t even look far. For compassion begins with the self. It has several facets to it. Acceptance; being non-judgmental, empathetic and giving; being able to feel and respond with understanding; being grateful and mindful of one’s privileges.
As children these come easily to us. But adulting often puts simple, everyday kindnesses on the back burner. We are often found harping about charity but fall short of compassion to those closest to us. Sometimes, even to ourselves.
Reading ‘My Acts of Heart’ will inspire the reader to face life’s challenges with love and kindness. The stories are simply crafted and all super-heroes in these tales are young children. While they teach you to practice compassion in every little way possible, from writing letters to random strangers to being kind to yourself for failing an exam to giving away your favourite thing to someone who needs it, these simple acts also teach something far more important. None of our champions of compassion ask for anything in return. An act of empathy doesn’t seek trophies. It only seeks to ignite compassion in the hearts touched by it. Beautifully illustrated, with words of wisdom from several torch-bearers, the book is a must read for children and adults alike. It is utterly necessary for our times, because our self-seeking, war-torn, pandemic-stricken, self-serving society could do with a little graciousness.
I’d like to end with a few more lines from ‘Small Kindnesses’.
// We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead— you first,” “I like your hat.”
The purchase link for ‘My Act of Heart’ is given here.