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The Kindness Questionnaire: Matthew McCracken

Each year the Red Cross helps thousands of people with thousands of acts of kindness. For Red Cross worker Matthew McCracken, witnessing these acts is the best part of the job.

AMI and New Zealand Red Cross have been working together to help Kiwis better prepare for the unexpected and recover from a crisis as quickly as possible. The partnership with AMI has enabled the Red Cross to put more than 10,000 New Zealand children through its People Savers course, which shows them how to respond in an emergency while keeping themselves safe.

Since 2017, AMI and Red Cross have also worked together to provide winter care packs to more than 850 households who struggle to keep their homes warm in Taranaki, Northland and the Wairarapa. The packs include essential items such as blankets, hats, gloves and pyjamas for children, as well as items to help seal cold drafts.

We meet Red Cross Corporate Partnerships Manager Matthew McCracken to hear how working for the Red Cross has affected his perspective on the way we treat others.

What does kindness mean to you?

Kindness is an action; it’s going out of your way to demonstrate your aroha to another human, whether you know them personally or not. It’s a belief that so many people hold on to but at times we only show it during great loss or personal crisis. This doesn’t need to be the case – it’s something that we should show every day.

Why should we all make an effort to be kind?

Working for Red Cross and living in New Zealand gives you a great perspective on what is really important and the struggles so many others go through. We really don’t know what might be going on in someone else’s life. An act of kindness can make a massive difference to someone who may be in an awful situation they have no control over. It can boost that person and provide a light at the end of the tunnel. It also has a huge impact on our own wellbeing: people who volunteer their time and show kindness to others have higher levels of satisfaction with their own lives, are less likely to suffer from depression, and are more connected to their communities.

Do you think Kiwis are particularly kind?

Working for Red Cross shows the very best of the human spirit, usually during the very worst of times. I’ve seen Kiwis respond with incredible kindness during times of disaster, crisis and tragedy, with offers of support and donations. There are also many volunteers across the country who demonstrate kindness outside of these times. With the support of thousands of volunteers, Red Cross delivers over 10,000 meals a week to socially isolated people. In most cases, the Meals on Wheels volunteer will be the only person they see all day. Some of these volunteers have been providing this support for decades and many times have saved the life of a Meals on Wheels client.

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

We hear and see so many complex, and at times evil, situations around the world and at home. Sometimes we can’t fathom or grasp how these terrible events come to pass, especially if they are man-made. It could be a personal crisis that everyone goes through at some point in their lives. Regardless of the scale or situation, I feel these times can be counteracted or brought into focus by big and small acts of kindness that everyone is capable of.

How do you try to be kind in your life?

There is so much stress and demands in modern life that I believe it’s very easy to be unkind because of an annoyance or if you’re frustrated. I’m no angel, but working for Red Cross and knowing about the situations others face is a great way of bringing perspective to everyday life. Being empathetic when I see someone in a situation and doing something that helps them out is how I show kindness – it doesn’t have to be huge actions, it could be just a few kind words of support. I also volunteer my time – it gives me a boost and I come away from it feeling so much better than before.

Tell us about a recent act of kindness you’ve witnessed or experienced?

My job is a real privilege and I get to work alongside some incredibly kind and generous people: my colleagues, volunteers and staff from our partners, like the team at AMI. Since 2017, we’ve been providing Winter Warmer Packs to people living in cold, damp and draughty homes. Some are families with very young children, others have disabilities, and there are also elderly people living on pensions. Winter can be so hard, with many choosing between turning the heater on or buying food. The recipients often say that the items were really needed, but the fact that someone thought of them is what really made an impact on their lives.

How did it make you feel?

Feedback forms are included in all the packs and one question asks: “How did receiving the pack make you feel?” I remember one that was returned to us said: “It made me feel like my life matters to someone.” I always have a mixture of emotions when reading the returned forms: proud to be a part of such an incredible organisation like Red Cross and humbled and motivated to try and reach more people the next year.