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This week Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, reflects on why kindness is more important than ever at this time of the year.

Closeup shot of two unrecognizable people holding hands in comfort at home

A few weeks ago, I was travelling home by train, sitting in an empty carriage when a young man came and sat down not too far away from me. He looked visibly distressed and agitated and after a while began to play music very loudly. I wanted to ask him to turn it down but to be honest, I wasn’t sure how he would react. And then suddenly he started to cry. A few minutes later, he looked at me, apologised for the music and his own physical state. I asked him what was wrong and he blurted out, “My mum died this morning, I missed seeing her as I was travelling up from London, I missed her by a few hours.”

The journey continued with this man telling me about his mother and his family situation. I listened and tried to offer some words of solace. Sometimes a complete stranger can be the very person on whom we wish to unload and I think that’s ok. I’ve done it myself in the past and while I couldn’t really help this young man, the kindest thing I could do was simply listen. We underestimate the power of reaching out, even to complete strangers because we don’t feel that we can say or do anything to help. But just as I have appreciated the kindness of strangers in the past, I wanted to let him know that grief can be overwhelming but it too passes.

We’re entering the Christmas season when, after a difficult year, peoples’ thoughts are once again turning to family, love and giving. But whatever the challenges, kindness doesn’t cost and is still the most precious gift we can give to each other.

Photography: PeopleImages/GettyImages