On a recent trip abroad, I found myself lost while searching for the Prado. Noticing my perplexed expression, a stranger offered to take me where I needed to go. He accompanied me through the botanical gardens, guided me through a cobbled grove lined with trees, before we finally emerged beside the museum gates. Then, with a warm smile and a ‘buenas dias,’ he left me.

I never found out his name, but I’ll remember him forever. This encounter got me thinking about that most underrated of virtues - kindness.

For me, an act of kindness is never random. To be kind is a choice: it’s the man who asks the waiter how their day is going, holds the door open, stands to offer a stranger their seat on the train. The ones who go out of the way to think of others. These are the small, daily decisions that make up character. Whether I’m bearing witness to them or on their receiving end, I find these acts arresting and intensely attractive. Kindness is infinitely impressive, a generosity where someone gives to others “just because”.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

― Kahlil Gibran

Isn’t it amazing how much of a difference it makes? Kindness only takes a moment and can cost nothing. Beyond mere acts, though, kindness involves empathy, understanding, making allowances for others. A kind mind seeks to understand us not only at our best, but in our moments of weakness too.

These days, so much stock is placed in toughness - in pursuing what you want beyond everything else - but I believe there’s strength in selflessness. To stay soft. To give it thought. To have the courage to be kind.