Monday, 20 February 2012

Everyday Kindness - An Evening with Stephanie Dowrick

“… it’s in your power to increase other people’s joy … through random acts of kindness.”

Stephanie Dowrick has been Shearer’s Bookshop’s first author event for each of the last three years. As the New Year ticks over, we are more reflective, have more aspirations and are more inspired – qualities that are enriched and encouraged by Stephanie’s writing and her words. As expected, the evening held to discuss her new book, Everyday Kindness, was full of insights that were delivered with Stephanie’s innate warmth, openness and generosity.

Everyday Kindness explores the nature of kindness and the role it can play in creating happiness within your life and the lives of others. Stephanie explained that there has been a consistent theme vividly emerging in her work over the last seven years which is how the quality of your connections with other people, arising from the way you see yourself, determines your happiness. For her, and I’m sure many other, it is a timely theme - often we don’t know quite what we’re hungry for until we receive it.

As with all Stephanie’s books, Everyday Kindness does not preach or instruct. Stephanie wants to avoid giving the public advice and instead sees her writing balancing on a precipice between sharing wealth, knowledge and her vast life experience (a life that includes 30 years of writing, being a minister, retreat leader and psycho analyst). This unique approach is expressed in Stephanie’s choice to use narrative to share her ideas. By bringing to life the substantial ideas of kindness, the reader can more readily envision a how to reach a kinder life. Through story and reflection she hopes to waken up a depth of possibility that our everyday encounters don’t quite match and don’t quite meet.

The encouragement that Stephanie’s books give the reader are necessary to evaluate and possibly change habits of thinking that get in the way of our goals. After all, Stephanie explains, kindness is both a concept and a value that only comes to life when it is activated by us. Such activation requires us to recognise that we can choose the paths our life follows and that these choices are highly relevant to our relationships and who we become.

We all know we must make significant choices in our life, but it is less easy to know how to we cultivate the confidence to make choices that in turn cultivate happiness and others. It seems simple, but often we need the courage to do what is going well and to do more of it; and similarly, to make choices about things that haven’t been going well in the past and unlikely to get better in the future.

Stephanie pointed out that we all share a condition – human life. From that, we can try to understand each other and learn to show our appreciation for one another more overtly. Stephanie believes that much of the sorrow over the agonies of loss of self and loss of self confidence stems from the need for appreciation and the inability to appreciate the gift of one’s own life. When we express happiness we lift our spirit and the spirits of others. Appreciation through kindness is the most valuable form of currency. Stephanie ended the evening with a reminder that kindness is strength, not weakness – it takes absolutely no strength at all to be nasty. 

Written by Natalie


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