“to someone who has been nothing but kind to you”
These words reverberate through my head and I struggle to parse out the meaning. Why they don’t sit quite right with me. They do not strike feelings of guilt in me, as they were intended. They do not make me feel sorry. It’s something else. Something closer to anger and resentment that they stir in my chest. Something that adds to the frustration I feel in general towards the world at large.
Kindness is not a special trait. It is easy to be kind. It is easy to say a nice word or to hold open a door for someone or to smile at a stranger. This takes no work, no effort, no reflection. “Kill them with kindness” the expression goes, because it’s quite possible to be kind to someone you despise, someone to whom you owe nothing. It’s another tool that can be used to belittle someone else, objectify and own someone else. Kindness is deserving to another mostly because isn’t it for you, and not for them? Isn’t it all worth it in the end because it’s how you feel–not how they feel?
And there’s the rub. Kindness is not for them, it is for us, for ourselves. It’s not for you. It’s for me. Kindness makes us feel good, makes us feel good about ourselves, and elicits the feedback we so desire from other people. “oh you’re so kind. You’re so good.” Pat pat smile smile.
Go ahead and be fucking kind to me. It doesn’t hold much weight. It is not the cherry on the sundae. It is not even the bowl the sundae sits in. It is the smaller, every day habits and reactions and responses that I am watching–that I am keeping my eye on. It is your knee jerk response to someone’s unkind words, it is your volume level in the morning or late at night. It is your inability to see how you encroach on shared spaces. It is your reaction to dark humor, to intelligence, to muggy weather, to slow buses, to new places. It is not your active kindness I am interested in, but your passive kindness. Does it lie in wait there, to be activated, or is it only something you put on when the light is green and the weather is sublime and the food is on time?
Tell me this.
Kindness is relative. You don’t know where I come from–my background or the culture I’ve seen. You don’t know how the factors of my life have shaped my perceptions or the way I live out kindness.
Be kind because you want to foster collaboration with me, with the rest of humanity. Do not be kind because you feel it is right, because you feel it is the way, because humans are complex yet emotionally simple at times. It is not because they are deserving. It is because it lives there in your heart, as natural as the sand in the water.