“Be kind, for everybody you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato
November is a month of remembering – the dead soldiers (11th), the dead souls (2nd) and the guys who tried to blow up the British parliament sometime back (5th). In our household, it’s also about remembering that on the 2nd, Mum is off duty on account of something to do with being born on that day…In our village, they do the remembering of those who died for us in our name very well. Brownies, Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Guides all gather, along with local councillors and clerics, to parade along the street in silence save for the eery sound of the bagpipes, played by a strapping tall soldier in a kilt at the front (we’re 500 miles from Scotland, so don’t look at me perplexed, because that’s how I’m looking!)
My kids love being part of a parade, and being part of something clearly important and significant. My daughter touchingly always speaks softly about the name of the local soldier she has on her cross to lay by the memorial. “I’ve got George Game this time, mummy. He’s my ‘man of the year'” she said today.
I must admit I find it slightly odd that the only time of the year that our village seems to get together in public (fireworks and Christmas lights switch on aside) is to remember the brave and the dead. But it’s conducted with such respect and, overall, thankfulness that I find it incredibly touching. It stops me in my busy, temporal tracks and causes me to think for a few minutes about those who suffered far too much, far too young for those in their present and for those far off in their future…
And my mind was brought back to a beautiful quote I read earlier this week, in which Plato wisely urges us to be kind because, basically, we’ve all got some kind of battle in our lives.
This is so true.
Battles of the mind, of the heart, of the body and of the soul. Battles that are often invisible, or at least kept beneath stoical smiles and brave faces.
And so, being kind is so so necessary and important, especially to the stranger: the woman behind the till, the person in the call centre, the man on your doorstep trying to sell double-glazing. Even the mum in the playground who looks fine but is crying on the inside. Who knows which of them might be fighting cancer, depression, mortgage repayments, fear of redundancy or even divorce?
This might sound a bit melodramatic, but when I consider how many in my own circle are going through, the statistics speak for themselves: the friend who has breast cancer, the friend’s husband who has manic depression, my mother who has undiagnosed on-going sciatic-like problems, and a friend whose marriage is under strain, how likely is it that the person I meet on the street today or tomorrow is going through anyone of those problems? Highly.
And so, this week, every time I see a poppy I’m going to use it as a reminder of the private battles we all have, and to be kind to those I encounter, no matter how busy or stressed I might feel. Because that’s when I need the reminder. Not when I’m relaxed and the pace is easy. But when I’m in the thick of childcare or school runs or a writing assignment, or squeezing in a trip to the local shop before tea.
After all, you never know the power of the kindness of strangers…
PS I’m linking this up with Sarah Miles‘ The Monday Club