For me, this week has been characterised by kindness. Amid the usual grind of work and family life I have found a few reasons to remember that, above all else, it’s people that make life interesting.
First off, my wife decided to do the Cancer Research UK Run for Life this year. I asked her why she wanted to do it and her reply was: I just want to do something for other people. A kind and quite touching sentiment that I was slightly taken aback by. I’d expected it to be something to do with her auntie who died a few years ago or someone she works with suggesting it to her.
She has involved her whole family too, getting them all to do it, even if they’re only strolling around. I’ve heard tentative suggestions that they might do it in pink tutus and fairy wings but I still think that my idea of doing it in cars was the most sensible. Anyway, it’s a kind thing they’re doing for other people and that’s to be applauded.
When she got her entry sorted and her account set up with Cancer Research UK and Just Giving, I tweeted the link and suggested that it would be nice if people sponsored her. I don’t like asking people to do things like that so I think I was quite timid about it. I just suggested that it would be cool to donate, if my followers wanted to. Her target was £100 and, through the generosity of people she has never met or spoken to, she broke it within 24 hours and has now been able to increase her goal. That’s the kind of random kindness that genuinely gets me quite emotional. It’s amazing.
The very next day, my friend and colleague, Lewis Gaston, had his album go live on iTunes. He’s very talented but unsigned and undiscovered so he isn’t expecting this first release to make him rich. He just wants to get his music out to a wider audience and see how well it is received. Of course, we all personally support him but shortly after I tweeted that my followers might want to check it out, I got an email from Alex. “Shall we put a little advert on the site for Lewis?”
Within minutes, the advert was done and I’d written a brief post which was totally unrelated to video games in any way and posted it on the site. Of course, we don’t profit from this use of our resources in any way (other than hopefully getting the pleasure of seeing Lewis successful). We just did it to help Lewis out a little bit. Not only that, when that post went live I was half expecting someone to complain about it being self-indulgent, irrelevant nonsense for a gaming site. I half expected someone to tell me I was abusing our position. That didn’t happen. People welcomed the notice and asked questions about the music. They showed an interest and took a few minutes out of their own lives to check it out.
Of course, the following day we woke up to the tragic natural disaster that has struck Japan. These events always give plenty of opportunity for kindness and we soon saw people and governments offering help and sympathy.
While some gaming sites tried to spin and exploit the news to attract traffic, Lee wrote a heartfelt and touching piece which we published quietly. We wanted to show that we cared, we wanted people to know what was happening and invite them to share our sympathy but we didn’t want to make a big fuss about it. Our own community, and a slightly wider community of industry folks, reacted with dignity and respect to what I think was possibly the most sensitive piece of writing I’ve seen on the subject anywhere.
When we can engage in activities, gestures and acts of compassion so willingly, it puts into perspective the occasions when other people do their best to convince us that humanity is a hostile, seething mass of rage.
Sometimes (and, as usual, I’ll point out that TSA is the best place on the internet for avoiding this) people do their best to lie, misdirect and accuse others of wrongdoing. Sometimes people, especially behind the masking curtain of the internet, are quick to cast profoundly ignorant accusations and hurl painfully misguided insults.
I’ll be honest, when that happens, and especially when it happens here (because it is so out of place and rare) I feel like switching everything off and abandoning any interaction with other people. But then I remember, or I see, something else. Something kind and honest and honourable. An act of compassion.
When I witness (and, perhaps too seldom, take part in) acts of kindness like these, it reminds me that humankind isn’t a lost cause. It reminds me that, all around the pockets of ignorance, there are crowds of people all too happy to help a good cause, show support to a friend and empathise with a people on the other side of the world.
So, to the people out there that have done something kind, said something reassuring or simply been there to show support. I’d like to show my own appreciation.