Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Revolution of Kindness

I am finally back at my keyboard after a long hiatus and maternity leave. Truth be told, I have tried to begin writing again several times. There is certainly fodder everywhere we look, especially with this election cycle and events throughout the world. Every time I would think about it, though, I was drained. Drained, because what could I possibly say that would add anything to the already electrified and volatile conversations permeating cyberspace. It is mostly cyberspace, after all. People are less daring in real life, though that boundary is beginning to fade this year as well. What could I possibly have to say that would be worth putting down my baby and engaging in that world?

As I was leaving the grocery store last weekend, a thought came across my mind that finally warmed up these old fingertips to click away. All this venom we see in this election cycle, the unrest in the world, it isn’t causing us to become less caring, more brash. No. Rather, it is because we have begun to expect apathy and cruelty that this behavior is becoming more evident in what was before “polite” society.

A little aside: I was checking out with my groceries, and the man bagging my items had a developmental disability. The other cashiers were laughing with him and engaging him in “normal” conversation. My first thought was how refreshing it was to see that kind of kindness. As I walked out, I became a little angry with myself though. Why should that be “refreshing” at all? Isn’t that what I would expect as a normal behavior? Is it really anything so extraordinary?

Certainly we should show and express gratitude for people’s kindness and generosity, because that is the right thing to do. It seems, though, if you are like me, that we’ve begun to show surprising gratitude because we find it to be a novelty rather than the norm. I see it throughout my social media feeds – articles highlighting and praising those who are kind to people with disabilities, to refugees, to immigrants, to the abused, to the marginalized. They are absolutely to be celebrated, but I can’t help but think the reason we are so enamored with these stories is that we are being fed discontent and malice on a regular basis. Our souls rejoice with stories of kindness because we are inundated with images and a narrative that suggests that the opposite is the nature of the world.

This is not the world I want my children to know. I want them to expect kindness and see cruelty as the aberration. Sadly, I know that I have to prepare them to face meanness, to expect the best but be prepared for the worst. Maybe that expectation is the first step, though. Expect the best. Expect better of one another. Call each other to a higher standard of behavior, of community, of love and care. It’s not about sanitizing the world with a false nicety. Rather, maybe, just maybe, we can imbue in the hearts of our families, our children, our friends, a desire to call forth what is the best in one another so we can change the norm. That change has to start in me. I have to be kind, to expect kindness as the norm and encourage it – at home, at work, in the community, even when I am sleep deprived and hungry! Far greater than random acts of kindness, we need to start a very intentional revolution of kindness.

It isn’t going to be easy. There is a lot out there that makes me want to throw in the towel, to rage instead of love. Sarcasm is second nature to me, and I abhor saccharin sentiment. I will need help and reminders of my own convictions. I do believe that together, we can do this, and we must. 

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