As I did some free writing this morning, decrying the destructiveness of Trump and those who enable him, I ended in an odd place. My words carried me, unwillingly, I might add, to the shores of Kindness.
I should probably be ashamed of this, but kindness has never been a word that I particularly liked. In fact, I bring quite a lot of mistrust to it. Hearing the word I feel like a rebellious teenager being told to behave and be ‘nice.’
Kindness was not a truly felt value. Instead, it represented a hypocritical veneer to me. And that’s a view that I’ve carried unconsciously with me through my adulthood.
It’s not that I’ve been (or wanted to be) unkind. More just that I haven’t thought about kindness much at all. And I certainly haven’t thought about it as something powerful and effective. But stepping back, I know that I have clearly experienced the transformative power of gratitude — how consciously choosing to feel grateful for particular people and experiences makes the world look and feel different.
So, I have to think that holding kindness in my consciousness in the same way may be equally transformative.
And the difference between kindness and gratitude, as I see it, is that kindness has an element of action, where gratitude is more about how you see and receive something. Kindness is about doing. So it asks me to be putting myself out in ways that I often tend to shy away from. (Indeed, putting myself out in any way is a bit of a stretch.)
It doesn’t ask me to be a different person, but to stretch from where I am. Authenticity is important.
And I hope you don’t find this annoying, but it’s the existence of Pete Buttigieg’s campaign that brings me to think about kindness. At this juncture in our life as a nation, I feel so stymied by the destruction of norms and the divisiveness that is being exploited so cynically by the GOP. The stress is exhausting and the prospects for anything like healing seem discouragingly dim. So I have found the different approach offered by Pete’s campaign to be refreshing and hopeful.
I just now Googled “Mayor Pete Kindness” and came up[ with a couple of posts — one by a writer from Ireland, so, of course, I’m linking to that one, Ireland being a nation well-versed in strife and the challenges of healing. The author Siobhan Kelleher Kukolic writes:
I don’t know who will win the next American election. But I hope it is someone who can unite people from all walks of life, no matter their political beliefs. Someone who reminds us that we are stronger together and we are more alike than different.
The other day as I was driving back to my office form a meeting, I found myself behind a car with the license plate “Killery.” My first instinct was to rear-end the vehicle, but then I thought about the hassles that would follow and contemplated my second instinct. That was to get the driver’s attention and then give him or her the finger. Realizing that someone with those plates might also be carrying some sort of a firearm, I nixed that plan.
And now, as I write, I see how those responses bring nothing new to the table. They reinforce the known and, like my old Twitter arguments (which I have thankfully stepped away from), they change no minds.
Perhaps even more importantly, they break no new ground within me. I remain where I am, and while that’s not a terrible place, I’ve neither learned nor grown.
Which brings me back to a word like Kindness — a word that I turned away from years ago, ceding its meaning to other people. I am guessing that I did the same with lots of other words that I haven’t thought of. And maybe I want to revisit these concepts, these words, and own them for myself. An illuminating and expansive process — and definitely a hopeful one.
This morning, this is my antidote to the soul-killing disease that is Donald Trump.