“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
A family in Tanzania was struggling with respiratory illness because of the smoke from their wood-burning stove. A group of teenagers fitted a smokeless stove, and solar lamps and helped build a classroom for a local school.
Volunteers at Bratislava train station had been supporting newly arrived Ukrainians, often working long and challenging shifts. Some students baked them cakes to eat and share.
A woman in Bratislava-Dúbravka was depressed and struggling to get out of bed. As she was waiting for a tram a girl walked up to her, handed her a bunch of flowers, smiled and wished her a good day.
What do these three stories have in common? They are acts of kindness by students at the British International School Bratislava. Kindness is an integral part of our ethos as a school and is integrated into our curriculum.
Acts of kindness not only have a positive impact on the recipients of the kindness, but they also have a positive effect on the people being kind. According to the Cambridge dictionary, kindness is “being generous, helpful and caring about other people“.
Being kind is worth it
There are many studies on the impact of being generous. According to the paper ‘The Science of Generosity‘ published by Berkley University, generous people are 23 percent more satisfied with their lives and are 50 percent more likely to report being happy.
The same paper cites a study of the impact of volunteering on people over 65 years of age. Those who volunteered regularly were 63 percent less likely to die during the five-year period of the study. Another study of 1,118 adults in New York, found that helping others by giving time, effort or goods was associated with better health and lower blood pressure.
There is a wealth of research on how practicing kindness leads to positive physical and mental outcomes. Physically, being kind has been shown to lower stress levels, blood pressure and increase life expectancy. On an emotional level, being kind releases hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin which make us feel good.
Empathy as the basis of kindness
Kindness is an action born from empathy. Empathetic people can connect with others on a deeper level and social connection is a key mental health protective factor for adults and children. When we understand the experiences and emotions of others, we are often compelled to act with kindness. At the British International School Bratislava, we model kindness, teach kindness and give opportunities for students to be kind. Whether it is handing out 250 bunches of flowers to Bratislava-Dúbravka residents, making cakes for volunteers at Bratislava train station, raising thousands of euros for our charity partner Magna or helping to build a school in Tanzania, the kindness of the next generation will positively impact Slovakia and beyond.
Gabrielle Clover is Deputy Head of Primary at The British International School Bratislava.