…The perpetrator was last seen in the city centre, committing random acts of senseless kindness.
Why is it that when you hear stories like this on the news, that the last word in the sentence is never kindness? Somehow, when someone loses control, it never seems to be their instinct to make the world better…this makes me wonder what life would be like if it were. Imagine someone going crazy and showering strangers with sincere compliments, calling all those people they forgot to thank over the years, spraying graffiti that the world was beautiful.
The idea is not as strange as you might think. Studies show that human beings are tribal creatures and we are physiologically adapted to work together. Kinder people have higher vagal tone – a phenomenon that is linked to better health, better sleep and better academic success. The recovery rate of heart attack victims was 60% higher in those who had a happy marriage and a friendship network. Acts of kindness have been shown to increase the amount of serotonin (feel good hormone) produced by your brain both in the person who commits the act and the person who benefits from it. Statistically, you’re more at risk of rhinovirus (the cold/cough virus) if you’re lonely than if you’re run down.
My favourite example of the impact of kindness was a dietetic study involving rabbits. The rabbits were fed junk food so scientists could study the results but one group seemed to be far healthier than the rest. This group was eating the same but not showing the same results. The reason? It turned out that one of the lab technicians had become so fond of this particular group he was taking each one out and stroking it each night!
Thinking back to our perpetrator, the sorts of destructive behaviours that we hear all too often on the news are therefore not so hard to understand. There is plenty of evidence out there that suggests when we feel isolated, it is both our minds and our bodies that suffer. Therefore, isn’t it important to imagine a world where instead of unleashing rage, we unleashed kindness? What might a city look like if one person did this? What if whole groups embarked in a campaign of guerrilla kindness? What if you could create a whole city based on it?
In a celebration of both our Urban Stories project and ahead of World Kindness Day, Bounce Theatre has developed a pack of free resources in which we encourage you to explore the idea of a kindness in thecity. The pack includes some small guerrilla kindness tasks as well as English and Art activities exploring the idea of a kind city.