A simple smile can make a huge difference. So too can an act of kindness, no matter how small.
I’m lucky enough to have a home in a picturesque village in Surrey, with a real sense of community, where many people have lived all their lives. It means that I’m always seeing elderly people out and about as they get their shopping, queue in the post office, or just enjoy a cup of coffee at the local garden centre. It is only when you stop to speak to them that you realise for many, their families now live further afield, they are widowed, or now living by themselves without their friends around them. My thoughts immediately turn to, who is looking out for them? Who makes sure that they don’t feel quite so lonely or isolated on an on-going basis?
Where I live, we have one or two people who I would call ‘angels’ in our community. These are the ones who provide a welcome smile or hello, and some practical help when things become hard for others. They’re well known and respected for everything that they do.
I’m all too aware that this sense of community doesn’t exist everywhere and that more often than not, people living by themselves can quite easily become ignored and feel even lonelier.
The other day I was driving along, and the car in front of me stopped abruptly without warning, and an elderly gentleman climbed out. It took him a while to reach me, but whilst he was doing so, several drivers hooted their horns and drove past at speed. When he did speak to me, he asked if he was near the train station. I pointed him in the right direction and wished him well. He was hugely grateful. It wasn’t much and it took no real time out of my day. And yes up until that point, I too had been in a hurry. But did it matter that I was now a few minutes late? No. What mattered most was that he continued his journey feeling that someone had helped.
This is why it’s more important than ever for younger generations to recognise that an act of kindness, no matter how small, can be a lifeline for others.
As part of my current partnership with Contact the Elderly, I have been looking into the prevalence of loneliness in the UK. My findings highlight the importance of regular social interaction for anyone feeling increasingly isolated, especially in the run up to Christmas.
It is reassuring that as part of this research, I have come across case studies of people talking about how they have formed friendships with people older than themselves; be it through charities, online forums or through their local communities. They speak on the telephone about anything and everything once a week. In a tech obsessed, fast-paced, impatient society, it really is the simple things that count.
We’re all in this world together, let’s just reach out to one another and respect everyone, showing some little acts of kindness along the way.
£1 from every copy sold is going to help raise vital funds for Contact the Elderly.
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