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The Kindness Questionnaire: Maria Lovelock

Road crashes are a leading cause of death among New Zealand’s youth, so teaching young people how to stay safe on our roads is vitally important. Road Safety Education (RSE) Maria Lovelock reveals how a little kindness on the roads can really save lives.

Getting behind the wheel of a car is one of the most dangerous things a young person can do. Not-for-profit organisation RSE is committed to reducing trauma on New Zealand roads by educating young people while they are still in high school. Their flagship program, known as RYDA, targets students in senior high school, providing teaching tools and practical, powerful workshops aimed at changing the way young people think about road safety.

AMI partnered with RSE in 2018 and, over the past 18 months, has helped grow the RYDA program by 18%. Each year in New Zealand, more than 8,000 students complete RYDA and RSE plans to reach 10,000 a year by the end of 2020. We chat to RSE NZ Manager Maria Lovelock to get her take on how patience and kindness can make the world a better place.

What does kindness mean to you?

Remembering the people in the process. I tend to be quite task orientated so I’m quite mindful to pause at times and consider how the tasks may affect the people who are involved. It’s about remembering we are all human and often we are dealing with multiple things at once, not only at work but also in our personal lives, so being slow to judge and giving people some grace when things go wrong is important.

Why should we all make an effort to be kind?

I think that life is far busier now than in past generations and so we don’t stop and consider others as much. Our impatience tends to make us pretty rude and unkind at times, especially behind the wheel of a car. At a time when suicide and road trauma are our biggest killers of young people, I believe a bit of kindness could make all the difference in our communities.

Do you think Kiwis are particularly kind?

I think we can be a really caring and supportive people but, in certain situations, we seem to forget this – for example, on the sidelines at your kid’s game, or on the road – and this is where we need to be having better discourses about the value of kindness and teaching people better ways to deal with emotion, especially anger and frustration.

How would the world be a better place if we were all kinder?

It would be a lot less stressful. Imagine if you could drive through town and people let you into the gap with a smile and never ran a red light. What if they saw learner plates on a car and were courteous instead of angry at that person for driving slow or making some mistakes? I think it’s a value that multiplies the more there is of it. As more and more of us are kind, I think more people will be inspired to act the same because when someone is kind to you it is humbling and wonderful at the same time, especially if you haven’t been behaving that well yourself.

How do you try to be kind?

Probably in two ways: proactively, when I know someone I care about is perhaps going through a hard time, I will try to reach out and do something nice for them, even if it is just a phone call to see how they are going; reactively, I try not to respond defensively if someone is letting their bad day out on me – not only does this often diffuse the situation, it hopefully improves that person’s day from then on. On both counts, I am not as good as I would like to be – it’s a work in progress.

Tell us about an act of kindness you’ve experienced?

I popped into a local dairy to get some key ingredients for Asian beef cheeks (yes, I love to cook) as I was missing a few items. They had everything but cinnamon sticks and fresh coriander. The lovely lady at the dairy just smiled, went out the back and returned with a bunch of coriander from her garden and some cinnamon sticks from her pantry and gave them to me free of charge.

How did it make you feel?

Wonderful! I was blown away and so appreciative, as it was totally unexpected. At the time I posted it on Facebook and told everyone how great she was. It was a little thing, but I still remember it even though it was over a year ago. The thing with kindness is people choosing to be nice even when there is nothing in it for them or may even cost them something – they are just doing it to make your day better. It’s very selfless and, in turn, makes you want to be a better person.