By Jack Hindle
Kindness day is November 13th, and with it comes a reflection of the past and thoughts for the future.
Kindness is this ethereal quality or trait that brings some of the best experiences to the human condition. To me, kindness is linked to memory and hope. When we remember the moments when people were kind to us, it romanticizes and recolors our lens of the past. It’s in those moments that we look back on with the most sentiment and joy. When we feel connected to those moments of kindness, it makes the future feel a little less opaque and a little less heartless. If we can find moments and memories that tie us to some sort of optimism, it leads us to believe that there is hope for tomorrow.
This is where kindness holds its power; it can give us glimpses of good moments, creating hope for more of those moments to come. Kindness creates uncontainable smiles and joy-filled tears. Kindness can be so strong in moments that it doesn’t have to be a massive act to change a person’s life. It can be as simple as a conversation or an understanding nod.
I don’t want this open letter to be just preaching kindness, though. I believe that most people know that they should be kind, and most people want to be kind and try to bring kindness into their world. However, I do think a more interesting question and examination would be what kindness looked like in the past compared to how kindness is experienced and looks like today.
I am a younger individual, but from asking older relatives and people I know, they seem to suggest that in the past, kindness dealt more with being patient and staying in a role where there was a common type of kindness. Twenty to forty years ago, the world was slower, and communities were tighter. World affairs were not as known or easy to access. Kindness moved through a projection of mellow movements. People stopped quicker to talk, and those talks would take their time. The same older generations see today’s kindness move quicker and is more worldly. Being kind to others has changed in that people are more aware of societal issues; thus, there is a stronger pessimism that one person’s actions wouldn’t fix much of anything.
I can see where they are coming from; when one has a deeper understanding of political and cultural institutions, it tends to create more cynicism about those institutions. I also believe that our cultural interactions with kindness have shifted, but not exactly how the older people in my life see it. I think there is a more concentrated level of wanting kindness to be spread to all facets of life beyond that of the individual. Not to say that an entire generation thinks the same way, for they definitely don’t, but I think that is where the shift has been. Younger people want kindness at all levels of society. Before you read on, I want to state that the younger generations are not a monolith, just like older generations are not a monolith. I think that young people see older people’s rose-tinted visions of the past as, at best, naive and at worst deceitful, but that also isn’t the whole story. When someone older remembers good moments in their lives, including moments of kindness, it’s not like those moments or feelings didn’t happen. There might have been something else going on in the background, but there might not have been. It is always case to case, and most importantly, those moments of kindness affected their lives. They made lasting memories, and they feel better about their lives because of it.
Kindness in corporations, governmental systems, and individual actions would be incredible, even if it is quixotic or lofty in hopes. Just trying to bring kindness to your life at all times becomes complicated and muddy the more you think about it. Being completely kind is itself lofty; for example, say you like avocados, but you learn that some avocados are farmed using modern-day slavery. You could think, “Well, supporting this with my money is not kind to those who are enslaved, so I am not going to eat any avocados without knowing one hundred percent where they come from.” If it were just avocados, then that wouldn’t be the hardest thing to manage, but it’s not just avocados, it’s chocolate, tomatoes, clothes, and the list just keeps going on. The more a person understands the world, the harder it is to be entirely kind. To top it off, just being kind in a day-to-day setting where you aren’t focused on where your products come from is already incredibly hard. After all, we are all human and to err is human. We can get frustrated and angry. Life is hard. Dealing with life is complicated and dealing with oneself is hard.
None of this is to say that it is pointless to be kind; it is the opposite. When kindness feels out of reach, it makes it all the more important to strive for it. This includes kindness to yourself. It is knowing that you’re not going to get it right one hundred percent of the time. I know that’s hard as well, but knowing and accepting future mistakes will let you move through life easier. When you know a mistake will happen in the future, you can get a leg up on working through it and fixing it. Again, this is easier said than done, and I also struggle with this all the time, but trying is always better than not trying at all.
Today is national kindness day, and for the most part, most people will not know that today is a celebration of kindness. Most people will go about their day no differently than before. However, if you do know that today is national kindness day, try your best, do what you can, that’s all anyone can ask for, and that’s all you can do.