I am writing this post as my support for the Keynsham Kindness Festival 3rd-13th November 2018.
8 years ago my husband (then boyfriend) and I were looking to find a home. I had got a promotion at work but in a new location – central Bristol. We needed to find somewhere I could commute from easily.
My husband grew up in a very small rural seaside town whilst I grew up in a city so we had different priorities. He wanted to be close to nature and I wanted the convenience of shops and facilities. I also wanted a home that we would be able to start a family in. I am so thankful to a colleague that suggested we look at Keynsham.
Our house is great, we can walk to the high street, there is a park around the corner and we are close to shops and can easily get to Bath and Bristol. We have a great doctor, dentist, choice of good schools and nurseries. We can go on local country walks and have a beautiful view when I look out our window.
Keynsham Kindness Festival
Tuesday 13th November 2018 is World Kindness Day. This will be the last day of the Keynsham Kindness Festival. The festival aims to bring the community together through the following themes:
- Take notice
- Keep learning
- Be active
Why kindness matters to me
So why is the Keynsham Kindness Festival important to me?
All parents care and worry about how their children will be treated by the world. For those of us with children who have additional needs or stand out from the crowd we have even more to worry about.
I never expected to be the parent of a disabled child (who does)! I also didn’t realise how behind society still is in treating disabled people. OK I get it- I knew very little about autism until my son was diagnosed 3 years ago so why should everyone else know? Well more than 1% of the UK population have autism. In Bath and North East Somerset the estimate is 1 in every 89 people are on the autistic spectrum. You may know several people with autism and not realise it.
The biggest thing I come across is pity and I understand we have all grown up to believe a disability is a bad thing. Yes in many ways it is, mostly because society is not set up for those that are different. However being different does not mean you are less. #differentnotless
Small changes can make a big difference
There are many small changes we can all make that make a huge difference to other people. Take notice and being aware of other people around us is really important. We all have to share our spaces so being considerate and kind rather than rude and unhelpful goes a long way. I recently wrote about autism hour and why shopping can be difficult for people on the autistic spectrum. Some minor changes like turning the lights down and reducing noise can make a major difference for some people. I don’t expect every public place to make drastic changes. But if everywhere was considerate and responded to requests like turning music down quickly and politely it would really help.
Being kind doesn’t cost us anything but is one of the most valuable tools we all have. Mental Health is something we often don’t talk about and it is hugely influenced by the way we are treated by others. When you first become a parent you can be very emotional (lack of sleep only makes this worse)!
However, it was becoming a parent for the first time that I experienced feeling constantly criticised. Friends and family were all telling me how I should parent my baby. Even worse so were complete strangers! I understand that it was mostly people thinking they were being helpful but this is where we all need to think about how we speak to others and if it’s really appropriate. A new mother does not need to feel judged or criticised they are already doing this to themselves.
I know my autistic son stands out, I know when he makes a funny noise people are going to look at him. It is totally natural to notice someone who is different. I am used to people looking at us now and I know that won’t change, but there is a massive difference between the person who looks and smiles (showing they don’t care and we are welcome), to the person that stares and tuts at us.
Take a walk in my shoes
It is really natural to judge people for most of us we have grown up with it being normal to judge people by their actions or looks. I have learnt over the past few years how wrong people get things when they don’t know the whole story. One of my favourite books is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, we have all heard quotes about standing in peoples shoes and at school I remember going over the quote from To Kill a Mockingbird (below) but it took on a much deeper meaning for me when I became someone who was different.
If you asked me to explain why life is different for someone with autism I could write a book, if you wanted to know how life is different in our home with an non verbal autistic child I could probably write 3 books. I can’t explain it to you simply but if you were to walk a mile in my shoes you might start to understand it.
I wasn’t a particularly judgemental person in the first place but now I am very clear that judging people when you don’t know all the facts is incredibly unhelpful. There is no need to pass judgement on strangers and in most cases if someone is struggling offering some help would be far more useful. Treating others with kindness only costs a smile or a hello. When you offer a helping hand it touches someone and is so easily done.
As my son grows up he will be more and more aware of his differences and how people respond to him. The damage it does to a person to be constantly criticised or ridiculed is enormous. Save judgement or criticism for when you truly know the whole story. If someone is telling you something then trust what they are saying. If a parent tells you their child has a particular need trust that they would know best.
Living in Keynsham
I am very lucky living in Keynsham. In general we have had access to support (although much bureaucratic chasing on my part has been needed). But most importantly on a daily basis people treat us kindly. Yes we get tutted and criticised on occasion but it isn’t the norm.
We have made lots of brilliant friends here, my son and his differences are included and accepted. Keynsham Children’s centre has been a huge support to us. I also have to say thank you to Keynsham Town Football Club for the amazing coaches that run the turn up and play on Saturday mornings. The fact that our home town is having a kindness festival shows me that the community is one that will support my son. Living in a place that people want to celebrate something as simple as kindness shows my kids have a bright future ahead.
Don’t forget to share your own kindness stories using the hashtag #kindness_connects on social media.