Deliberate Botheredness – Andrew Cowley
Is kindness a habit or a deliberate choice? There may be a balance between the two. At the height of the pandemic, for example, some families chose to leave a food parcel on a neighbour’s doorstep but might also show their kindness in their smaller, almost imperceptible interactions with others.
In recent weeks, we were awoken in the early hours by shouting in the street, some swearing and the sight of a car parked diagonally across the road, doors open and headlights on full beam. After a few minutes, the matter was resolved, the car parked safely, one of the participants was sent on their way, and the other was safe back in their home. The brief event was explained by a domestic argument, youthful exuberance, and too many drinks.
The following day I knocked at the door to check on my neighbour, a father of three boys. He thanked me for asking after him and apologised for his son’s conduct. I explained that no apology was necessary and that, as parents, we all have times when our adolescent children make us cringe!
“You know what, Andrew,” he added, “You are the only one to ask after me. All those houses were opposite, their curtains twitched, but they’ll say nothing to me. I want to thank you, though, for your kindness.”
I thought about this for a moment and replied that rather than being an act of kindness, I might have described it as one of “deliberate botheredness” a term my neighbour appreciated and understood.
As a street, values and a shared community spirit are something we’re trying to build through events to mark the Queen’s Jubilee and her passing and other ideas to bring us closer, rather than be a hundred or so houses which share a postcode or two.
I’ve thought much about “deliberate botheredness” in recent weeks. Random acts of kindness are one thing, an act that is pleasing to do and to receive, but is they embedded habits? If they are one-offs, they won’t necessarily be a habit. Habits take 30 to 90 days to become part of established daily practice. “Deliberate botheredness” can be one way to show kindness in a different light; random acts of kindness can impact a life for a short period, and being deliberately bothered can make this a lifetime habit. It wouldn’t be a habit for gain, reward or recognition but a habit representing strong and universal human values. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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