2024 College Theme - Kindness Transforms Community

At our first whole of College Mass, Ms Haggett unpacked our 2024 College theme: Kindness Transforms Community, explaining why kindness is so important in everthing we do, both at school and in our daily lives as a community. Indeed 'Communities thrive when kindness abounds, and sadly, fall apart when it is forgotten'.

Our theme for the year is “KINDNESS TRANSFORMS COMMUNITY”.

Who has heard of the term “Survival of the fittest?”

It’s a term used to describe one aspect of evolution, that life on earth has come to be through a process of ruthless competition.  

In this view the world has limited resources and to make it you have to get what you can, while you can.    

There is certainly a scientific basis for this in many organisms, particularly plants and animals.  

But there is disagreement about whether we can apply the same theory to humans.  

In fact, the opposite might be true, kindness itself might have a biological, evolutionary purpose.  

Some years ago, writer and psychologist Dacher Keltner put forward a case that as a species, humans were in fact “born to be good” …  

He presented the idea that altruism, which is the word for doing something kind without expecting anything in return, might be something that has contributed to the growth of the human race.  

Now, if you watch the news, this might be something that is hard to believe.  

What Keltner argued, is that kindness comes more naturally than we think it does.  

We are born, he says, to be kind and generous.  

And why? Because giving and receiving kindness actually makes individuals happier and communities healthier.  

What I find interesting is that religions have known this intuitively and taught it explicitly to their believers for millennia.  

Communities thrive when kindness abounds, and sadly, fall apart when it is forgotten.

Let me share some insights from a range of traditions.  

In Hinduism it is said that we “should not behave towards others in a way that is disagreeable to ourselves”.

In Islam Muhammad says, “not one of you is a believer until you wish for another what you wish for yourself”.

Similarly in Judaism, the saying goes “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour”.

And here is a prayer from a Buddhist monk that I love “I pray that I may never create conditions which may lead others to harm”. This monk goes on to say, “I will ask in the innermost place of my heart “Is what I am about to do truly of use?”.  

You know, by now, or you will come to know, that the foundation story of our College is the story of the Good Samaritan which is fundamental to Jesus’ teachings about kindness. It is a very practical story about what radical kindness actually looked like in Jesus' time, and at the end of the story we are told to “go and do likewise”.  

Today in our first reading today you will hear this phrase, “clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness”.  

So, my challenge for all of us this year, the year in which our theme is all about kindness, is to think about kindness as already a part of who we are, like the clothes we wear each day.  

Say to yourself I am a kind person.  

And when we are confronted with situations where we might be inclined to say or do something that is unkind, let us stop and think, “What would a kind person do?”  or even “What wouldn’t a kind person do?”  

In this way we will – according to both science and faith - truly transform our community.