It’s funny how 24 hours can change your perspective. This post was *not* going to be about kindness. It was going to be about head fuckery (mine), and epiphanies (mine) and calling out bad behaviour (not mine). It was *so* not going to be a kind post. It was going to be a mean and small and revengeful post, albeit an enlightening and highly entertaining one. This post was going to be about as far away from kindness as one could get.
I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately. I’ve been thinking about how kindness touches my soul more than just about any other human act. It overrides cruelty, diminishes meanness, cancels out small-mindedness. Witnessing an act of kindness, irrespective of whether it’s fact or fiction, never fails to make me tear up. And I think it’s because genuine acts of kindness are so rare, so beautiful, so generous.
(I cried in A Game of Thrones when Tyrion covered Sansa as Joffrey had her stripped naked at court and when The Hound saved her from being gang raped. And when Osher sacrificed herself so Bran and Rickon could escape Theon’s madness. I cried at Hans and Rosa Hubermann’s different kinds of kindness in The Book Thief. I cried when I read Mustafa Atatürk’s words at Gallipoli. I cry when I see soldiers adopting stray cats in Afghanistan and taking them home when they finish their deployment. But I didn’t cry in 12 Years a Slave, even though it was a film about devastating and awful human cruelty, because there was no depiction of kindness in the film).
Kindness is a close relation of compassion and empathy. It is an obvious act, a gift from one human being to another (more than any other human act or gift, I think) that says (without an agenda or ego) that you care. That you have compassion. That you have empathy. You recognise someone’s vulnerability and personal battles and pain, and you act. You act when you don’t have to and when there is no reward. This act might be in the guise of words: Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things comes to mind here. This act might be a financial gift that helps make someone’s life better, and this is where organisations like Kiva do wonderful work. It might be giving $5 here and there to the homeless guy you see on the way to work every morning, who never fails to bid you a cheery good morning.
Or it could be the simple act of just listening to someone tell a story about their pain, and not making a judgement about their actions. Not making that story about you and your ego and your confusion and the infractions you feel have or have not occurred. It’s about being present in their present. And just letting them breathe. And just letting them be. Vulnerable. Stripped bare. Safe.
Make no mistake. Kindness is hard. Kindness takes practice. Kindness is not the default position of most people, including me. It is much easier to be snarky and hard and cynical and mean. It is much easier to think only of your own pain, of your own hurt, of your own suffering. Of only you. Of what you want. What you need.
Kindness is a bright prick of light in a dark world. So shine your light, people, wherever you can.