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An interview with the authors of 'The Gift of Kindness'

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An interview with the authors of 'The Gift of Kindness'
Interview with Debbie Duncan and Cathy Le Feuvre, authors of The Gift of Kindness  

Acts of kindness have the potential to make the world a happier place. If someone is kind to you it can boost your confidence or increase your happiness.

But kindness cannot be faked. It is much deeper than just ‘being nice’. To have real impact, kindness needs to become a lifestyle choice.  We need to actively choose to be kind every day if we want our lives to mirror the qualities of Jesus.

In their new book, The Gift of Kindness, which interweaves biblical and scientific insights with real life stories and pointers for practical life application, Debbie Duncan and Cathy Le Feuvre explore what kindness really is and how it has the power to transform us and others.

Firstly, Debbie and Cathy can you tell us a little about yourselves?

Debbie: I am an advanced Nurse practitioner, lecturer in nursing, church leader and Mum to four grown up children and Nonna to several grandchildren.

Cathy: I’m a writer/author, broadcaster and communications professional with more than 35 years’ experience working in media and PR. I see myself primarily as a ‘storyteller’ and what I love to do is to help people share their stories.

Why did you decide to write The Gift of Kindness?

Debbie: I had been thinking about writing the book for a while. Cathy had chatted with me a few times about kindness and how it was becoming a trend. I then discovered she was helping with the PR for the Jersey Kindness Festival and then we saw an increase in the reporting of acts of kindness at the start of the pandemic and I wanted to research and write about kindness – discovering what it really is.

Who have you written this book for?

Cathy: I think The Gift of Kindness is for everyone and anyone who is interested in developing kindness as part of their character, recognising kindness wherever we find and see it, and wants to be part of a kinder world.

What was the most challenging element of writing the book?

Debbie: I was worried I could not capture what kindness means. I hope this book helps us do that. I also wanted to cover the biblical perspective and not leave anything out. It was quite stressful as I am not a theologian - I call myself an experiential theologian.

And what was the most rewarding element of writing this book?

Cathy: I learned loads about kindness that I did not know and for me the stories that people shared with me and which they allowed me to share with our readers is so inspiring. It showed me that kindness is still truly in the hearts of many, even if it is sometimes hidden by what some might consider to be the overriding selfishness of our culture.

What makes this book different from others on the same subject?

Debbie: I like to think it’s holistic. It has God at the centre and dissects a lot of the strands of kindness that emanate from Him. And then there are the extraordinary stories from extraordinary times!

Cathy: We draw on many different sources which have explored human kindness and compassion from many different angles and weave them together, from some unlikely places, and wrap them all in spiritual context.

This book also covers stories and even research relating to, and written during, the first couple of years of the COVID19 global pandemic. Much of this has, to date, not made it into any books, namely recent studies and reports which at the moment are only online.

I’m particularly excited about some of the very current and first-hand accounts of kindness which we’ve been allowed to share. They are inspiring and have much to teach us about how we may care for our fellow human beings through simple acts of kindness. And we were determined that this book would be more than set out a series of hypotheses but would also leave us with challenges and actions to help us all to think more about kindness and how that might help not just ourselves and others, our wellbeing but ultimately, our world.

Kindness is one of those words that can just seem a bit ‘nice,’ but you call it a ‘tardis’ of a word. What do you mean by that?

Debbie: It may seem a small word– just a few letters long, but once you open it up it is huge. It means so much.

Cathy: Being kind is certainly not just a ‘nice’ something to do so we feel better about making someone else feel better. It’s much deeper. It’s showing compassion and empathy, but sometimes it means difficult conversations and may mean being counter cultural. As we unravel the word we are taken down many different paths and it certainly made me think much more about what being part of a truly ‘kind’ world might look like. In a world where we are encouraged to think of ourselves first, to be ‘kind’ means to think of others as well as ourselves, even if they are unlike us and not part of our ‘tribe.’ It’s challenging.

Kindness has had a resurgence in the pandemic. Why do you think this happened and what does it teach us?

Cathy: During lockdowns I certainly feel that people wanted an outlet for their emotions and energies and often that manifested itself in kindness towards others, even on social media. People saw other people’s pain and really wanted to help. As our worlds became ‘smaller’ we began to look outward to others, something we may have never done before.

What has it taught us? Well that we all have in us the ability to think outside of our own needs and even our own circle of influence and peer group and be aware of the needs of others, the pain that others are going through and the realisation that we have things and talents which we may be able to share with them and with the world that can make a difference to our culture. We all have this compassion and empathy within us … we all have the ability to be kind, it’s just that often we supress it with our own competitiveness, selfishness and, maybe, fear that if we extend a hand of kindness, we may be taken advantage of or be seen to be a ‘pushover’ or may be criticised. It’s worth the risk!

Debbie: I think people realised that we had to be kinder to each other. In the middle of a terrible time, kindness meant that we could be empowered to do something creative and helpful. One or two little acts of kindness grew.

Debbie – you look at the science behind kindness. Why are you so fascinated by this and what do you think it adds to the book?

My background is in nursing. I am often amazed about the human body. We are wonderfully and fearfully made. I love science, psychology, and sociology and I also love how these interweave with theology and faith. We know kindness is a biblical principle. We also know that there is scientific proof that when we are kind it affects our bodies in a positive way.

Cathy – you have found and shared some amazing stories of people carrying out acts of kindness. Why was this so important to you and can you share one story that has particularly impacted you?

I love to help people share their stories … as a writer and broadcaster that has always been important to me. Our media, especially, seems to be obsessed by the cult of the ‘celebrity’ and so to hear stories of just everyday folk doing amazing things is inspiring to me.

All the stories I heard and shared inspired and, I believe, showed the impact of kindness, but for me the most impactful story was shared by my friend Chris, herself a Christian leader who is a very kind person. She shared two stories of kindness, including how once, when facing a big bill for new spectacles, she discovered that an unknown ‘Angel’ had popped into the opticians and paid the bill, in full! Chris never did discover who her Angel was! That act of altruism, a kindness extended with no thought whatsoever of compensation, glory or reward in return epitomises kindness to me. And that gift of kindness didn’t just impact Chris and her family, but also the staff at the opticians who couldn’t believe how someone could do something so kind. It was a kindness that had ripples which extended far and wide and which even today is remembered. THAT is true kindness.

You both talk in the book about kindness having the power to transform our communities. What does this look like to you both?

Cathy: If we are to create a kinder world, we may have to re-think much of our cultural norms. Being kind might change our politics, making it less ‘partisan’ as politicians work together for the better good rather than just the needs and wants of the individual parties.

Could kindness change the way leaders treat employees…considering them less as cogs in a wheel and more as assets to be treasured along with the physical assets owned by the company?

As someone from a media background, wouldn’t it be great if our media – newspapers, television, radio, online – highlight the good as well as the bad? News is often dominated by the unusual – war, conflict, dissent, argument – but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we also included a lot more of the uplifting stories which showed the kindness in our world?

On a day-to-day level… could kindness transform our roads, making us more considerate of other users of the road, including pedestrians and cyclists? If we live a kindlier life, we will start to notice others more, and their needs. That may make us more alert to those around us… could that create a less hurried and more considerate life even on our roads?

Debbie: I think it would be a glimpse of Heaven. No loneliness, sharing our time and talents, brightening people’s day.

You use the example of Jesus as the role model for kindness throughout the book. Has anything surprised you or really struck you afresh about this as you have written the book?

Cathy: To be kind in the way that Jesus showed his innate kindness may mean actually to be counter-cultural, to stand up for those who have no voice of their own, to champion causes that may make us unpopular even within our own communities or churches. Yes, kindness is about helping others, just as Jesus changed the lives of those who met him. But it also has to be about showing spiritual strength, determination ae of cynicism, sarcasm and criticism which can sometimes dominate conversations about spirituality.

Debbie: He was intentionally kind. He spoke to the woman at the well when no other man would. He broke cultural norms to be kind.

You talk in the book about kindness being something that has to be intentional, and you include many pointers for action throughout the book. What one piece of advice or action would you give to anyone who really wants to cultivate an attitude of kindness in their lives?

Cathy: Keep your eyes open for any opportunity to be intentionally kind … however simple. Open a door to another, offer someone your place in the supermarket queue if they have fewer items in their shopping basket, make a colleague (or ten) a cup of coffee or tea when you are putting the kettle on for yourself, If it’s safe to do so, let that vehicle waiting endlessly in the side road exit ahead of you, even if it means stopping your own journey for a nanosecond!  Little acts of kindness like this cost us nothing but may make a huge difference to that person’s day. And I believe what if they benefit from YOUR little kindness, they may be inclined to be kind to the next person they come across.

Debbie: Try to plan to do one kind act a day.

Have you learnt anything new/ been reminded afresh about God/ your faith while writing this book?

Cathy: Writing The Gift of Kindness with Debbie has encouraged me to be more intentional in kindness, to seek those opportunities but also not to be ashamed of explaining my motivations. As I look to the life of Jesus again, I’m encouraged just to be braver in my faith, and more intentional in my own little kindnesses.

Debbie: I was reminded how kind God is.

What do you hope readers will most get out of reading this book?

Cathy: I hope readers will be encouraged to look within themselves, ask themselves honestly about whether they are ‘kind’ in their thinking, words, actions, attitudes and relationships. I hope learning more about their own ‘kindness attitudes’ may make them more open to being kinder, even to people who are unlike them or with whom they disagree. And by examining our own motivations and base line kindness, I hope this will encourage us all to think more kindly, use kinder words, look for opportunities to be kind not just to others, but to ourselves.

Debbie: That readers will learn things they didn’t know and want to put them into practice.

In one sentence, how would you describe The Gift of Kindness?

Cathy: An exploration of a little word which may seem small and inconsequential but when taken seriously and acted upon has the power to change our lives, the lives of those around us, our communities and our world.

Is there anything we can pray for you?

Cathy: For The Gift of Kindness to open minds and doors so that we may all begin to think and act more kindly … every day. For me to be more aware of kindnesses … I’d love to have a better ‘kindness radar’ …and for strength and health to juggle the challenges of life and discernment for the future.

Debbie: That this book will make a difference and for daily strength as I juggle the challenges of everyday life.

Authentic Media

Authentic Media is a UK Christian publishing house committed to delivering quality Christian books, music and film to help people on their journey of faith. They are based in Milton Keynes.

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