'Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness' - Maya Angelou
Tonight Deceptively Angelic Looking Child 1 (DALC1), aged 6, told me that she thought some of the Year 6 girls at school might have been unkind to her but she’s not sure. As she tells me what happened, my mind drifts back to a school drop-off a week or two ago when I thought I saw these girls laughing at her. They are the same two girls who have a rota of when the little ones are permitted to play with them, meaning that about every second Wednesday DALC1 is excited to go to school because it is her turn to play with these wicked witches.
Having feared this day since becoming a parent, I think about what I can do to right this wrong. What exactly is the policy on punching other people’s children in the face? Not OK? My mind runs on to a more intellectual approach. Would my criminal law colleague write to them, asking them to keep his details handy because no doubt they will need him in a few years when their monstrous tendencies eventually lead them to petty crime and a life of incarceration? DALC1 says no, she would prefer me not to do anything.
I ask my friend Julie what to do as, when she is not at home worrying about defrosting food, she is a Year 6 teacher. She says I should tell DALC1’s teacher, as it isn’t a level playing field and therefore not something you can expect DALC1 to sort out herself. I tell DALC1 Auntie Julie’s advice, but she still doesn’t want me to say anything.
Of course, if I overreact or go against her wishes this could be the last thing she ever tells me.
In the manner of Richard Curtis talking on Channel 4 News, I give the pep talk of pep talks, no doubt the first of many. It doesn’t matter about the unkind people because there are a whole lot more kind people out there. They are the important ones. For every Donald Trump there is a Dolly Parton. For every Farage there is a Rowling. For every Spacey there is a Springsteen. For every Hopkins there is a Piper. For every Rees-Mogg there’s a Jameela Jamil. For every Piers Morgan there are ten lovely CBeebies presenters. Misogynistic buffoons seem to be the flavour of the month but I hold out hope that this is a short-term fad. Life arcs towards the kind and the good and the rest aren’t worth our time or attention. She also found out today that Trump is a 'rude word', which lightened the mood no end.
Am I naive to think this extends to success, careers, and the workplace? The people who have made it to the top of my firm are kind, appreciate that if you look after your staff they will look after your clients and they know that happy staff won’t leave and incur them costs in finding replacements. They don’t overcharge clients, and see the importance of being part of the community. You don’t have to phone three different people for authorisation if you are off sick, and you get two days off for a funeral. Having been dealing with a particularly difficult and complex matter for some time now, I often get calls from the equity partners literally to check I’m OK and coping.
On the other hand, at my previous firm the people at the top were pond rats. There was bullying going on at a high level, and whenever I or one of my colleagues raised the issue it was immediately swept back under the carpet with the bullies’ careers seeming to go from strength to strength. But this was not survival of the fittest. Because the firm showed no loyalty to you it enabled you, with a clear conscience, not to show any loyalty back. No one with any talent would have any reason to stay there and so they didn’t. I really can’t see them being in business in a few years’ time unless something changes radically. I will try to be kind if this happens.