The parallels to where the phrase originated from are clear, with the salt of ancient times, which was once an invaluable commodity.
We all know these special people who live among us in our own communities, the ones who quietly, and without fuss, look out for others. They drop by for a chat and a cup of tea with someone who might be elderly and living alone. For that person, it might be the only other human contact they have all day.
They see a need and, without question, they fill it. That might be collecting a prescription for someone who is housebound ‘because they are going that way’, or fixing a small job around the house for an elderly neighbour to stop them worrying, or just carrying a heavy shopping bag into the house.
These “salt of the earth” people are frequently modest, and see their actions not as voluntary service, but as simply lending a hand where they can. Doing their bit… no matter how small it might seem. They are not looking for thanks either.
Intrinsically they just want to help, but what, to them, seems to be a trivial act can have a huge impact on the wellbeing of the grateful recipient.
I see so many examples of people who just are “the salt of the earth,” and that’s why I, too, am backing this new campaign by North Yorkshire County Council in partnership with local newspapers. The campaign wants to share these stories of often simple acts of kindness which can make such a difference to people, and encourage others to do the same.
In our ever increasingly busy lives, we might feel we just don’t have time to fit in anything else. But this campaign aims to demonstrate that actually, time is not necessarily the greatest requirement to create kindness as a ‘social norm’. It is but a mindset.
If we think about the people around us, a small act of kindness can make such a difference both to the recipient but also to the person helping out. This, in turn, strengthens the bonds within our communities, and we are more likely to continue positively, in terms of addressing the challenges of everyday life, among them a lack of resources, isolation and loneliness.
It really doesn’t have to be a big endeavour. Just saying hello to someone could be a cheerful thing to do on a drab morning. One of my favourite examples are the villagers who organised a dog walking rota so an elderly widower with increasing mobility problems could continue to keep his beloved dog, who was such a great companion to him.
All the dog walkers knew which was their day for collecting his dog for a morning walk when they were passing – their turn was probably only once a fortnight which required precious little or no extra time in their lives. But these collective small acts made a massive world of difference to that man.
The great thing about helping others, even if it’s just exchanging a cheery word with someone, is the sense of wellbeing it gives you too. Try it and see for yourselves. It certainly works for me.
Sometimes people perceive a barrier to helping others. What if on the dog walking rota, the dog bites someone? What if I clear my neighbour’s steps of snow, but they slip and then sue me?
North Yorkshire County Council wants to assist us, to find ways of overcoming these perceived barriers so that people can continue to lend a hand to others without fear of repercussions. Ask them for support if you need to, they are there to help. And please do also send them examples of people you know who deserve recognition in this “salt of the earth” campaign.
In North Yorkshire, as Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant, I feel so very proud to be in a position where I see and meet so many “good” people doing great things without realising their reach. They truly are the “salt of the earth” – such a great Yorkshire expression – and it is fantastic to be celebrating something so wonderfully positive, a real good news story!
* Salt of the Earth is a partnership with North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Advertiser, Scarborough News, Whitby Gazette and other newspapers throughout North Yorkshire to celebrate and inspire kindness in our county.
* Jo Ropner is the Lord-Lieutenant for North Yorkshire.