It’s been a long, tough year for everyone, but for many, the pain, loss and heartbreak has been insufferable. On one side the pandemic ravaged lives, and on the other, extreme and intense hatred for fellow humans saw new heights. Not only on social media platforms, but in real life too. And amidst the pall of gloom that surrounded us most part of the year, it was hard to find hope and keep the faith, especially in humanity, alive. But fortunately, even in utter hopelessness and from the ashes of distress, stories of unity and kindness emerged. Whether it was people assisting one another during the peak of the pandemic, or strong statements by sportspersons calling out racism and discrimination on the sports field – these flickers of hope kept the flame of humanity, aglow.
Kindness and brotherhood are cornerstones of society even outside a human crisis. This message has been reinforced time and again, whether by the fourteenth Dalai Lama who urged people to be kind, and said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Or during the recently concluded IPL, Robin Uthappa of Chennai Super Kings franchise asserted its urgency, when he said after his match-winning performance, “Let’s be kind. The world needs it.” And while it’s always a good time to be kind, in our current situation, when we’re experiencing a spike in mental health issues, kindness acts as an antidote to the stress resulting from trauma and anxiety of the unprecedented times, the loneliness suffered by individuals forced into social isolation cut off from loved ones for long periods when the need for a community support system is absolutely crucial.
It’s no surprise then that universally valued prosocial behaviour that includes helping, sharing and volunteering with intent to benefit others, not only improves an individual’s mental health, it also has a significant impact on community wellbeing and is the need of the hour. Unfortunately the quality of kindness humans need today is receding. A study published in Psychology Today showed a 40 percent drop in empathy levels among college students post 2000. One of the reasons for this drop pointed towards decline in outdoor activities and free play, an area where children connected with one another and learn to support and care for their teammates.
Sport is a great teacher, where children learn some important values on the field, one of them being sportsmanship. Sportsmanship involves respect for one’s opponent, integrity on the field and graciousness that one shows even in defeat. And it goes without saying these positive traits ingrained in a child’s psyche serve in every sphere of life. One of the most followed and celebrated sporting events, the Olympics this year showed the way with some heart-warming examples of sportsmanship. Every Olympic event gives the world rich memories and sporting feats to remember, but this year along with the glory of sport, there were some tender moments that will remain with us for a long, long time.
One of the standout moments being close friends and rivals, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who ended up finishing on equal points in men’s high jump and instead of going for a jump-off to decide the winner, they opted to share the gold medal. Such an act shows that even at the highest level of competitiveness, there is always scope for friendship and compassion. Just like that even in life, despite the rat race for survival, where everyone is aiming to get one step ahead of the other, kindness can still be an option.
Another positive lesson sport teaches children is acceptance and how to respond to winning and losing that can be applied to everyday life. Like in sport, results in life too are sometimes not in our control and there’s no use beating ourselves up over it. For the youth who easily get disheartened and tend to see failure as a dead end, when they watch sports persons they adore pull themselves together after a defeat, and act with control and civility, they learn to respond with the same steely resolve when they find themselves upfront with similar challenging situations.
One doesn’t need to look too far as the most recent display of this came after the recent India-Pakistan T20 world cup qualifier, which India lost to their archrivals. But more than the painful defeat, watching Indian captain Virat Kohli embrace opponents Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam was such a refreshing sight that it wiped out part of the disappointment fans experienced from the drubbing. It also came at an apt time when emotions were running amok. His gesture not only calmed the frenzy fans, it went a long way in restoring some semblance of order given the longstanding rivalry beyond the field that could have easily tipped over and flared up into heated exchanges on social media between fans from both sides of the border. Instead, we saw respect and empathy flooding social media platforms, the way it should be in sport as in life.
Kohli also went on to silence those dissenting fans who questioned his teammate, sending a strong message, and a much needed statement against discrimination. For a sportsperson like him who has a huge fan following and influence, he’s a mentor when it comes to shaping young minds and developing core values. When children watch them stand up for each other, irrespective of region, religion and race, they learn that there is no room for racism on the field or in life. And in the end, irrespective of which team wins or loses, it ensures the triumph of humanity!