Ntale is a psychotherapeutic counsellor and activist from South London and now works for the Mental Health Foundation. He touches on the role kindness has played in his life and how kindness has helped him be who he is today.
What kindness means to my past
Kindness isn’t a concept I thought a lot about as a young man. Kindness was often portrayed amongst my peers as weakness and wasn’t something that would protect you in the face of threat. Kindness wouldn’t save your phone at knifepoint, nor would it save your reputation in a fistfight. Kindness was a liability, and liability could get you hurt – even killed.
At home and amongst family, though, kindness was life-affirming. Kindness was getting an extra piece of chicken at dinner. Kindness was getting that new computer game you’d been talking about since Easter, that extra piece of roti to clean up your plate at the end of a meal or being the first to play with your cousin’s new action figure. In that sense, kindness had two faces in my life. Kindness occupied two worlds in two vastly different ways.
Why kindness got me to where I am today
Without kindness, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Kindness in my life made a crying 15-year-old boy in a restaurant, covered in blood from his own wounds and the wounds of another, crack a smile and even laugh a little at a kind stranger’s joke. Kindness gave a young man the insight to recognise that even straight, cisgender Black men can be abused in romantic relationships, giving him the fortitude to oppose it.
Kindness was a conduit for kindness, and kindness is compelling, rooting my interests and passions in bringing warmth and compassion to others. Kindness sits in me as I face my clients and enter them through an unseen pathway, nonetheless felt.
When I worked as a mentor in an independent alternative school in my hometown in South London, kindness compelled a boy to bring a box of his grandmother’s stew to school to share with a classmate who regularly came to school with an empty belly and 50p in his pocket for crisps.
How kindness taught me politics
But Kindness also taught me that we must stand together:
- kindness in these COVID-19 times has brought food to my neighbours who are vulnerable and unable to leave to buy groceries
- on my estate, kindness has spoken to an elderly woman through her first-floor window, and kindness has replaced clapping for the NHS with chants to “GIVE THEM PPE”
- kindness has pressured authorities to house the many unhoused overnight, and kindness has demanded they remain housed post-pandemic
- kindness has shared books and toys in exchange boxes on my street corner, and kindness has kept those boxes full
- kindness has brought my disenfranchised and impoverished community together
Lastly, kindness has brought pieces of many a young man, shattered by the impact of austerity and left behind by an unkind status quo, back together again!
Kindness is powerful
Kindness is love, compassion, concern, generosity, solidarity, affection, care, consideration, kinship, and tenderness. Kindness is powerful, and I hope that we all feel enough of it to carry us to a better, happier post-pandemic world.
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