It’s been on my mind a lot lately.
I’m not talking about being civil or polite, though I’m certainly all for that.
Saying “please” and “thank you”, smiling at the person behind the information counter or in the toll booth, giving someone else the right of way in a line of merging traffic. These are all the common courtesies that, of course, we all should extend. They’re the things you just do when you’re part of a herd.
It can be just as simple as politeness, yet deeper.
Kindness takes paying a little attention. Noticing.
Not grand gestures, but small ones made with understanding.
Holding a hand gently when someone is sick or sad. Listening when someone else is talking. Showing up with a chocolate bar when a friend is having a rotten day, or inviting the new kid to sit at your lunch table. Shoveling your neighbor’s walk.
Noticing when you haven’t heard from a friend in awhile and calling or writing to say, “I miss you”.
Catching the off-note in someone’s voice, and asking, “Are you okay? Do you want to talk?”
Being quiet. Giving everyone, including yourself, a little more space. And a little more credit.
Sometimes it just means showing up. Being there when you said you would. Following through on a promise.
Being a friend.
When I see kindness, it catches in my throat and makes my eyes water. Maybe that means it’s rarer than it ought to be and it takes me by surprise (or that I’m not very good at noticing it). Or maybe that I’m not as kind as I should be, or as often as I could be, and I’m reminded that I can do more.
Or maybe it just means that it’s one of those essential ingredients to being human, to making hard things bearable, to turning a spiky grey day into a soft orange day. And when you see kindness in the world, wherever it’s directed, its warmth radiates out to you and everyone else who sees it. And we drink it in like long summer afternoon sunlight.
It’s the phone call that you make “just because”.
It’s the gentle hand you put on his arm or the small of his back as you pass each other in the kitchen.
It’s the song you sing with your girl, who’s been having a bumpy week, in the car on the way home from school, the fragile spring sunlight picking out the reds in her hair. And letting her know you’re singing it right to her, with all your heart.