In the world we live in, a world full of mistrust, anger, and fear, there exists a force powerful enough to change our trajectory, to change the negativity and create a serene future for us and those around us, those with whom we cross paths.
It is the force of kindness.
In theory, it’s simple enough.
Kind [ kahynd ]: adjective, kind·er, kind·est.
1. of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person: a kind and loving person.
2. having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence: kind words.dictionary.com
Based on a foundation of empathy and awareness, it involves taking into consideration someone else’s situation and actively taking steps to make it better, to alleviate their real or perceived hardships with means that are available to you, with means at your disposition.
To actively choose to give of yourself without expectation of anything in return.
Benevolence in its purest form.
It’s often the road less travelled. The path not chosen. It’s the one covered with thick, gnarly brush and brambles that cut and snare, that slice and scratch the delicate bare flesh of humanity, dissuading many from taking such an uninviting route when one could choose the clear path, the easy one, right beside it.
No my friends, it’s not always easy to be kind.
Sometimes it’s easier to rise to anger with alacrity, burning everything in our path with fire and brimstone, our wanton acts of destruction that heed no call, no master, the acrid fumes trailing behind us, reminding us of our choice too late, unable to tether what we’ve unleashed in that moment of weakness, of humaness – a slight, a frustration – a coiled spring springing forward with full force.
The damage done.
Allowing the trigger to be triggered, jiggering the jigger, unleashing the dance of a thousand regrets.
The jig is up.
But we try. Oh we try. Over and over, again and again. To do better. Be better.
Every day a new opportunity to be kind. To do kindness in a world that needs more. So much more.
I tried the other day. And in a way, perhaps I succeeded.
Or perhaps, by putting these words down, this is my atonement for those thoughts. My thoughts.
Impure and unkind.
It was after a long and arduous grocery store trip, my face, heavily bearded and heavily masked, my breathing tasked with pulling enough air through the KN95, perhaps oxygen had seeped and creeped out the sides, the seal broken, imperfect, leaving me wanting, needing more.
People going the wrong way, disregarding arrows, avoiding the slings I slung from my eyes. Daggers thrown freely to keep my space my very own. But they were in their own world, in their own mind. Their worries and their time, theirs in that moment. Standing close. Oh so close. Shoulder almost touching shoulder in acts of intimacy years ago forgotten in this time of contagion.
But that is neither here nor there as the real story takes place as I was driving home, the long stretch of road full and choked with others like me, like us, in their steel cages on wheels, the rush and crush of time pushing us forward.
The importance of our time usurping the importance of theirs. Ours vs the others. Us vs Them.
Moving forward slightly. Braking. Inching. Taking space in the slowest race. Almost frozen but with enough thaw that we made the glacier’s pace.
And then the test of kindness.
In this congested line of vehicular molasses, I made the mistake of looking up.
When we usually stare a thousand yards ahead, eyes fixed on the destination miles away, I looked up.
And our eyes met.
He was exiting from a parking lot, wanting to turn into my lane.
I could see his entreaty, his ask, willing me to afford him the simple courtesy of ceding space in front of me, space which I’d fought for, given up my precious time for. Gazing quickly up at my rear view mirror, I saw the million shining stars reflected back at me in the dusky haze, the line of cars, only twinned headlights visible stretching back as far as I could see.
I had a decision to make.
A path to choose.
The easy one, to revert my gaze back to the thousand yards. Or the hard choice, choose kindness.
On this day, I chose kindness.
It wasn’t easy. It took calculated effort to hold the brake down as the row of cars ahead of me began their mechanical inching, to make space, hold space, for this stranger.
But I did it.
And in that moment, as his hand raised up and with a flick of his wrist he acknowledged my act of generosity, I felt a resounding peace. There was a warmth that emanated from somewhere deep inside me. A fuzzy warmth with garbled edges, expanding as I suspect the universe does, outward, inward, everywhere. Incredible. All from that simple act of letting him in.
This is what kindness felt like.
As we inched forward, it all came to a sudden halt.
As his car crossed the threshold of the intersection, it hit me.
The warmth evaporated leaving only the barren shell of what came before.
And in that moment, I learned that kindness gets you a red light.