World Kindness Day prompted Chris to remember a few times he’s experienced kindness.
In my swimming years, I spent a lot of time on the road. Over 25 weeks of most years, for a decade, was spent out of the country travelling. Whether that be Europe, the Americas, or Africa, I’d always come home with a story about being looked after and someone being kind. Often when I’d been away having a meal by myself, someone would come over and just ask to sit down and speak to me. I always took a moment to pause and feel gratitude for that person’s kindness.
I believe that a big key to kindness is not expecting something back when you give it. I’m a massive believer in karma. I live my life by the karma rule and that’s why I pause and think, ‘Is this thing that I’m about to say truthful? Is it kind? Is it relevant? Does it really help?’ I pass it through all these filters, but the one that I focus on the most is kindness. We can still deliver the truth and be kind at the same time. There’s a way of doing it so people feel the kindness, they don’t just hear it and see it.
A few years ago, I received a call from a coach who’d previously collaborated with me in my swimming. He asked if I’d help a couple of young, aspiring swimmers because when you reach the Olympics as I have, your words have a powerful impact on others striving to get there.
The coach asked if I could send the swimmers a note to motivate them. However, I wanted to do more than that. At the time, the swimsuits they needed had high-end technology built into them. They were absolutely amazing. They made all the difference to how fast you could swim, but they were quite expensive at £300 each and they’d only last ten races. My swimsuits were sponsored, so didn’t cost me anything.
I wrote the two young swimmers notes to say, “Keep going. Keep setting your targets. Dream big but keep your focus small and work on those little bits.” And I sent them a handful of swimsuits which they raced in. It cost me nothing but the postage. One of the young men made the international team and I’m good friends with him now. You never know when you’re making someone’s day. It’s not just the day you’re making, it can be a lasting memory.
This reminds me of my recent post about ‘Be more Joe’. Watching Joe meant that I was on a high for the rest of the day. It meant that anybody I bumped into, I felt kindness for, and I gave them patience and time.
Being kind can just be about appreciating when someone is having an ‘off day’. We all make mistakes; we all have bad days, and it takes very little for us to be kind in the moment. I always look for those people that aren’t having such an enjoyable day. It’s a big deal for me to make sure that everybody in the room is OK. That’s my bag. I look out for those little things and just ask someone twice, “Are you OK? Sure? Is everything OK?” Because it’s normally the second time that they’ll tell you the truth. Those moments make a massive difference. It’s not just asking how they are at work. You’re actually asking how they are as human beings.
There’s a line in one of my favourite songs from Kings of Leon which says, ‘I’ve walked a mile in your shoes. Now I’m a mile away, and I’ve got your shoes.’ There’s lots of diverse ways you can interpret songs, but for me, it’s about putting yourself in other people’s shoes and just looking through their lens, just for a split second. I love that song because it reminds me to be empathetic as we go through our journey.
My wife Erica always says, “It’s what you put out in the world that you get back. If you’re kind first, you generally receive it back second.”
To end with one of my favourite quotes, “Nothing beats kindness,’ said the horse. ‘It sits quietly beyond all things.” Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse