• Suzanne Noble

A Question of Kindness

I believe that sharing your home is more than a financial transaction. At its heart, it’s about creating a harmonious household where everyone can live together with a full appreciation and understanding of each other’s expectations and boundaries. It’s about being kind to each other.

It’s not easy to live with those outsides of your primary relationship and family but working at it is important. Why? Because learning how to get along with others is a life skill that, when mastered (if it were ever possible to master!) leads to richer, more rewarding relationships and friends for life.

We’re only a few weeks into the pandemic and, as a result, it’s almost impossible to predict how our current circumstance will impact on our future behaviours. Emergency situations are often the catalyst for behaviour change, even ones that may seem insignificant and small. Think of what happens at a bus stop when the bus you were expecting to arrive on time, is very late. Those in the queue, who would usually ignore one another, suddenly strike up a conversation. “I wonder what happened to make the bus so late.” “Maybe there was an accident.”

Already I’m witnessing how my family has come together, over the wonders of Zoom, in a way they hadn’t previously, scheduling times to talk. I’m checking in with my single friends because I want to make sure they’re OK. I’m hanging out on Houseparty, on-call if needed.

If I had a crystal ball, I’d suggest that the world we are now entering is one born of kindness. That when we are all thrown together and able to recognise that our petty differences have no bearing on our current situation, that we are able to come together in ways that make us, as a whole, kinder. Or maybe I’m just hoping that life will turn out that way and our obsession with always having everything the way we want, whenever we want it, will turn out to be unsustainable.

Many of the conversations I’ve been having lately are around predicting how long the lockdown will last. Politicians say weeks but I suspect that’s as reliable as a doctor telling a patient they have a later stage terminal illness. Humans aren’t resilient enough to deal with the truth so, as a result, experts spoon-feed us to make the information more palatable for us to hear. I know that real change will only occur when the reality of our current situation sinks in and that will require us to be in lockdown for months, not weeks.

Will those that have been living in solitude as a life choice – the writers, artists and musicians – flourish? I hope so. I have been predicting for a while that, outside of the tech bubble, (which may ultimately turn out to have been the biggest bubble of all) when the economy collapses, the only ones with any value are those with the ability to entertain. I’m viewing on a Facebook channel I created, Corona Concerts, musicians from all around the world, streaming from their bedrooms songs about love, hope and loss.

I’m watching as some of the world’s greatest cultural institutions open up their doors, online, to show us work that, before self-isolation, had been reserved for the privileged. I’m hoping that they recognise the value of sharing great theatre, music of all genres, with the world and continue to do so long after lockdown ends. Kindness can reveal itself in many ways, not just through what we can do individually to support one another but what businesses can do to enhance our lives.

I lost all my paid work a couple of weeks ago which feels like the new normal as most of my friends are now unemployed. At the same time, my partner moved in with me temporarily which was never our intention but necessary due to circumstances beyond our control. A flatmate, currently self-isolating with his girlfriend elsewhere, for a week or more, completes our household setup. It is not without its challenges.

My flat, while spacious enough for two and the occasional three, is not designed for long-term living for all of us. However, for now, it has to work that way and we all have to work together to make our situation amicable. Kindness is paramount as are getting over ourselves, as my kids would say. Making space for each other. Acknowledging when someone requires alone-time. Recognising our own areas of discomfort. It’s a process. Maybe it’s about re-engaging with our tribal self and the need for community, of looking out for each other. I don’t have the answers but only my gut tells me that if we’re going to survive this catastrophe, we have to change with it.

This week I’ve joined a group of Airbnb hosts on Facebook. Their anger and fear are palpable. The loss of an easy income for which they have relied upon for years. Their feeling of being ‘dropped in it.’ I see their unwillingness to accept that their rooms or flats may not be filled for the foreseeable future and their lack of desire to give a home to someone at an affordable rent, because of what that would mean for their privacy. I see little evidence of kindness. Change is hard for most people, never more so than when it is imposed upon us. It takes time and mostly the acceptance that it’s not possible to go back. That the undo button doesn’t work anymore.

My hope is that in the future, many will come to see the value of creating ‘conscious community’ and of entering into shared living in a spirit of willingness. The future will dictate whether financial necessity gives way to acceptance and a desire to create long-term living unlike the current power dynamic of homeowner and lodger we have experienced to date.

It’s too early to tell what the outcome will be if my prediction of a kinder world turns out to be correct or just naively optimistic. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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