12 November 2021
Our world today is an exciting place to be with technological advances and a myriad of opportunities in our globalised society.
However, at times it does seem like it is missing one small element that makes a huge difference to those around us: kindness. Sadly, we often hear on the news of the many ways people are not being kind to one another: hostile posts to key figures in the public eye (more commonly women); a politically divided country; and the sexual harassment of young people in unprecedented numbers to name but a few.
It was the anthropologist, Margaret Mead who when asked what the first sign of civilisation in humans was, referred to a 15,000 year old fractured femur bone. She argued that the evidence that this bone had healed (which can take up to 6 weeks) demonstrated that others had looked after the human who injured themselves. In the natural world, a broken bone is most likely to lead to death as you cannot run from danger or find sustenance. This first evidence of humans caring for other humans is where civilised society began, not in the art they created nor their tools for hunting.
Our society is a far more complex affair than that of early man, but our capacity to be kind to one another and to look after those that need care is surely the essence of our humanity. The pandemic in some ways helped us remember what is important to us; supporting our communities and connecting with our families. Our admiration for those in the caring professions both in the NHS and care homes was at a pinnacle. However, as life has gotten busier once more, we might have lost sight of the importance of some of these values.
I was so proud of our community during the pandemic; we really did nurture each other through this difficult time. And it has been a real joy seeing us all come together again this academic year. Nevertheless, I do not want us to forget how supportive we were of each other. We must continue to be kind and lift each other up, celebrating other’s successes and being there for each other when things don’t go as planned. It is central to our ethos and a guiding principle at BGS.
A favourite saying of my grandfather was: “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” I think he would be horrified by some of the things written online today. I believe his statement is a good one to live by. However, we should also take it one step further and be ready to stand up for what we believe is right. If we see unkindness in person or online (in the myriad of forms it can take from racism and homophobia to misogyny or even the simply mean personal comments), we want our students to have the confidence and empathy not to be a bystander.
It is World Kindness Day on Saturday which was set up to promote kindness around the world and help bind us together more closely; certainly an aim we can all aspire to as an antidote to all the conflict of our VUCA world. We will continue to place kindness at the forefront of our messaging to our students, through our actions, our lessons, our assemblies and our commitment to service. As Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” and we must draw upon this inspiration. By teaching our students to be empathetic, to consider their actions carefully and to help support them if they make a mistake, we will continue to be that strong, supportive community.
I have loved getting to know the BGS community over these past 18 months and they have shown a wonderful community spirit welcoming me into BGS, impressing me with their ideas and commitment to making the world a better place. I am confident that together we will be able to live up to the Dalai Lama’s saying: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Gemma Gibson, Headmistress, Bedford Girls’ School