Today, I set out to spread kindness around my city, specifically to a person who I think may be affected by the new ban on refugees. I took small cards that said “you belong.” I took paper flowers made from vintage maps. And I took love buttons.
I arrived at the grocery store where I spend much time and money, where everybody knows my name and I know theirs. On Sundays, the store is always packed and my friend from the Middle East was busy as usual. So I shopped, sat with a cup of tea, and stitched for a couple hours.
As people passed my table, I smiled and nodded hello. I was prepared at any moment to hand someone a love button, a flower, or a card. But I couldn’t summon the boldness and everyone hurried past.
As the sun set, I grabbed my last few items, packed up my stitching, and made a beeline for the check out where my friend was bagging groceries. But just before my turn, he was asked to collect carts outside. We smiled and said hello to each other. And that was it.
I returned home feeling like a failure, so ashamed that I don’t have a better story to share after so many of you cheered me on and asked me to share your compassion, too. But I’ve been thinking and here’s what I learned about kindness today.
Kindness is the long game. It doesn’t just happen on one day, on my terms, with paper flowers and love buttons.
Kindness doesn’t have to be contrived either. Yes, I can stretch my comfort zone, but I have to be authentic as well. My outpouring looks different than, say, an intuitive extrovert.
Kindness listens, it doesn’t just speak or pass out sympathy. What if I asked my friend “how are you?” rather than jumping in with well-meaning words and a token?
Kindness isn’t just for others – it’s for my closest loved ones and for myself. I started an argument with my husband in front of my kids as I was walking out the door to go be kind to foreign people in my city. Not a moment I’m proud of. And I have watched way too much news and eaten too many potato chips in these weeks of social division and bitter unrest. I need to be sure I’m kind to myself with mindfulness practice, good eating, and sufficient rest.
The last thing I learned today is that kindness is enough. I wish I was a lawyer, a senator, a judge, a millionaire – someone who could directly impact these injustices we’re seeing played out right now. But kindness is enough. Common, decent, ordinary, day-in and day-out kindness. Kindness to those who have been targeted, mocked, and bullied; kindness to my hard-working husband and young, impressionable children; kindness to my tired, aching, panic-ridden self.
There are millions of us shining our lights of kindness in countless ways right now. We carry each other. It doesn’t all depend on me. I’ll try again tomorrow to love well with intention and courage. We all will. I know this because I see the goodness that flows from you. Together we do this good work.
Make no doubt, it is dark right now. But this ebony night certainly is making our points of light sparkle, isn’t it?
Thank you for sharing in this story with me. It has only just begun. I send you love.