‘Tis the season to be kind..

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UWS alumna and lecturer Dr Evi Viza talks about a project she, her students, the local community and local schools, created to share kindness.

Ah, Christmas. It has it all as a holiday, doesn’t it? The cheer, the food, the warmth, the gifts, the festive spirit.

There is always a part of me however that makes me think that there is more to it than what the TV adverts portray . It has a sad side. The loneliness, the “I cannot afford the food” (which is excessive in most times anyway as if gluttony is a metric of happiness), the “I cannot afford the gifts” (which gifts seem to be the misplaced often focus) and worst of all, the “I am all alone. I have no one to celebrate with”

The last one haunted me for a few decades. I was a student at UWS working in the royal mail sorting office during this time a long long time ago. Just one of the 37 jobs I have done since my teenage years. And let me tell you, a Greek person trying to read Scottish name places or figure out handwriting is a challenge. International ones were no better. You need a degree in Geography and cryptography to master it.

On the way back from work, I got on the bus and as I stood up just before my stop, the bus driver started talking to me about my festive plans. And before I could answer, he shared with me his story: his wife had died a few years back, his children had their own families and they were far away and there he was seeing people getting on and off his bus every day, with shopping bags and listening to their plans for parties and gatherings. He had no one to spend the day with. This stayed with me.

Every year at this time, I think about people like the bus driver. The ones in situations worse than this one. The ones living on the street, in refugee camps, in foster homes, in care homes and everyone that even in their houses, Christmas is not a time of happiness. It is a time to remind them of their loneliness, often on top of their poverty.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Often it costs nothing. It always, though gives so much.

Dr Evi Viza

Then I think about our international students. I was one and some experiences resonate with me. To be away from your country, different culture, different weather, language and unable to go back home. They had it tough this year. They lost family members, many got covid and they were here all alone, many had to work long hours to support themselves and their families. They are brave and I admire them. One day, I will be working for one of them I think (although I tell them off often and I might have spoiled my recruitment chances).

So, this year, we ran a small community project: Cards of Kindness.

We cannot do much about the poverty in such short time. We did try to do something about the loneliness though. A small team of volunteers came together, and they got local schools involved, the students, the community.

The idea was a simple as it gets: make or write a card. We will send it to someone in a local care home to cheer them up. That was it. Just a message that someone is thinking about you. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know you or your name and if you don’t know them personally. There are people that took their time and their creativity to send you a kind message, you wonderful stranger.

217 Acts of Kindness

The message to all of us, and especially the next generations should always be: in a world where you can be anything, be kind. Often it costs nothing. It always, though gives so much.

So, this was it. 217 cards of kindness so far (the ones on the image). 217 acts of kindness and counting…

Dr Evi Viza is Program Leader MSc Quality Management/ MSc Project Management at University of the West of Scotland. Dr Viza gained her PhD from UWS in 2012 and graduated with a MSc in Quality Management from the Paisley Campus in 1999.

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