My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
― Mark Twain
My days tend to be pretty quiet. As an introvert I prefer the house’s clicks and groans as appliances whir and water cycles through the baseboard heaters. I like to hear the outside noises, too, the hens’ egg announcements, the cockadoodling of roosters, bleating of sheep and shrieks from the kids next door. Shuffling through the day in my slippers and oversized sweater, I prefer my children occupied at school. I do enjoy their presence, but the days with the house to myself are priceless.
I am fortunate to have a life that lends itself to listening to the inner draw of my breath, that can move and flow with the recovery from busy weekends and family demands. I relish the solitude and stillness and the mundanity – until I don’t – but that’s a story for another day.
I have begun spending more time in the gym, reducing running to a couple days per a typical week. My body wanted a new challenge, my muscles needed a shift, something to protect and usher me into the next stage of life. After five months of three mornings a week, I have become friends with some new folks in my city, at the local recreation center.
I’ll admit, for weeks after the election I eyed people with suspicion, men in particular. I did not feel safe in the world – my innocence and comfort under attack. The election of 45 stole my sense of trust and safety in my community. I have felt betrayed and vulnerable. Something has torn in our national fabric, faith in our government is frayed and now we must live with greater awareness, greater distrust.
As much as I preferred to hole up in the cocoon of my quiet home, I remained faithful to my gym workouts, tending to body, mind, soul, sanity. The extended proximity has moved my new friends and I beyond pleasantries and grimaces in the mirror. I have a gym posse, and I like them.
Grief is a funny business and disappointment stinks. It serves no one when we live in the space of suspicious and afraid, so I attempt to combat with generosity and kindness – a smile, a wave, a cheer and a compliment. Kindness might be our salvation.
I don’t know how Jim voted, the elderly gentleman who hobbles from machine to machine and calls me Gina, but I know he’s precious.
I don’t know how Martha voted, but I love her fiery determination with the weights and her signature pink skull cap and sweatpants.
I don’t know how George voted, but I think he’s smitten with me.
I don’t know how Shelly voted but she sure works hard and WOW! She is strong!
When we have the opportunity, the ability, we press forward into our communities. We seek ways to make life better for another. We seek ways to alleviate the heavy load and provide relief, for another and for ourselves. We seek ways to move beyond nice and we aim towards kind.
I refuse to be satisfied with nice. Nice is spineless and ineffectual, effortless and meaningless. Nice accomplishes little change in the world.
Kindness is not a soft notion, kindness is one of the trickiest endeavors we choose. Pitted against my own desires and needs and convenience, kindness takes nice a step further. Kindness puts skin in the game and with persistence, begs the questions: Do you see this person? Do you recognize the image of God in the life before you? Kindness happens in the gym, it happens on the drive, it saved lives during the Holocaust and will save lives now. If we are being tested at all, it is in our degree to which we will choose kindness toward our fellow humans. Do I continue the gossip-y conversation? Do I seek vulnerability in a friendship? Do I strive to elevate another’s needs before my own?
I aim to walk a little closer to how I believe Jesus walked, with intention, seeing and providing for the many multitudes, while caring for Himself. I trust this season will move us in the way of humility, in the way of grace. I trust this season will remind us all of the fierce defiance of kindness.
Miles beyond nice – kindness acts, kindness moves, kindness defies.
I don’t have to accept what’s going on, I don’t have to assimilate or accommodate, I can be fiercely opposed, but I can also choose to be kind. I can choose to elevate another’s needs beyond mine. I can choose to set aside my assumptions for the betterment of another.
And I will keep showing up – to the gym, the store, to church and in my home – seeking to demonstrate kindness to the people I know and love now, and to the people I will hopefully know and love later.