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November 13 is recognized as #WorldKindnessDay2020, a global day that promotes the importance of being kind to each other, to yourself, and to the world. As noted on inspirekindness.com, World Kindness Day is celebrated annually on November 13 with the purpose of helping “everyone understand that compassion for others is what binds us all together.”
A celebration of human compassion and goodwill, though an admirable idea, feels like an impossible lift in 2020. America is sorely divided over the results of the election. The coronavirus has stretched folks’ patience to their limits and, at this point, it seems as if most people have empathy space for is their close family and friends.
So, where do we find space for kindness in an increasingly cynical, fragmented, and dying nation? Some may reason that the upcoming holiday season may bring about a cheer that amplifies the goodness in humanity. The other side of that reasoning is that many people will be experiencing distance from their loved ones due to COVID-19 or be enveloped in grief on account of a loved one who transitioned this year.
I was curious to find images that provided an illustration of what kindness looks like in such a cruel moment in history. I went to Twitter and searched the #WorldKindnessDay and found a few images that spoke the loudest to me.
Photo image description: Cartoon drawing of a muscular Black man sitting behind a noose with tears in his eyes. Holding a phone with a text that reads, “Hey know you are busy. I just called to say you are amazing. Thank you for lighting the world with your spark.”
This image hit me square in the chest when I saw it, as it underscores the pain many Black men have been experiencing this year. The myth of the callous, unfeeling and virile Black man in America is absolutely mythical. I spoke with teary-eyed Black male friends when George Floyd was lynched in May, as we processed what it meant to see someone that could have been one of our homies killed by police in broad daylight, and how it took the world to be slowed down by a pandemic for our humanity to be affirmed.
The cartoon image of the man crying from reading a text that tells him he is “amazing” and a “spark” resonated to my core. Far too often, we talk about giving someone their flowers while they can still smell them but still end up tossing roses onto their burial plot after they depart from the physical realm.
Photo image description: A vibrant and colorful infographic listing seven ways to start making kindness a norm in your daily life
I, admittedly, am a sucker for a good infographic and this one really worked for me as it was concise and aesthetically appealing. The image basically screams, “find some way to be nice to somebody, goddammit!” Of the seven points listed, point number six particularly grabbed my attention.
Number six reads, “Reach out to a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while,” and it serves as a reminder of something I have needed to do. There are absolutely family members that I need to get clarity with, and in a social climate where the temperament of our fellow citizens is unpredictable, it’s beneficial to sure up the love from those you know have it to offer you.
Photo image description: small Black child wearing big glasses, colorful socks and suspenders smiles widely. The photo caption reads, “The world is full of kind people…If you can’t find one, be one.”
This image underscores a truth that I have discovered time and again, which is when we venture outside of groupthink, the echo chambers of social media and the herd mentality, we often end up encountering a generosity of spirit from unexpected sources. Are there assholes in the world? Definitely. Is there a danger associated with ending up in unfamiliar settings with non-like minded people? Absolutely. But are we subject to the worst of humanity every time we step out the door? Honestly, no.
The silos we exist in do not take into account the doors we hold open for each other at the grocery store or the heads up we give one another when we drop something of value on the ground. We all engage in small acts of kindness damn near every day with the same people we might argue with in the comments sections of news outlets.
We often exhibit the kindness we seek out, we are just accustomed to navigating the world with our defenses up and have convinced ourselves that good people are non-existent. And if we truly believe that, then who is the reflection in the mirror that stares at us after we come home from planting the tiniest seed of goodwill?
Photo image description: A multi-colored finger painted sign hanging from a brick building on a sunny day. The sign reads, “If we all do one random act of kindness daily we just might set the world in the right direction.”
This image speaks to the notion that you do not arrive at an expansive body of water without individual drops that fill it. The same can be said for building a more compassionate, considerate, empathetic and kind world. Small acts of kindness are often revolutionary moments that chip away at our preconceived ideas of each other. It is possible to acknowledge that just as we are all socialized by societal ills such as racism, sexism, classism and homophobia, we also have likely encountered someone who did something outside the norm of their power dynamic that was to our benefit.
It is illogical to expect massive waves of kindness every day, particularly living in a capitalist society where selfishness is akin to survival. But in times of disaster, we have seen our fellow citizens operate at their highest frequency. If we are able to mitigate disharmony by taking incremental measures of decency, we may not have to work so hard to keep our society from self-destructing.
Photo image description: An emerald green poster with World Kindness Day written in small black letters across the top, large white quoted font that reads “no act of kindness is ever wasted,” and the date of World Kindness Day (November 13, 2020) in small black letters at the bottom
The simplicity of the idea that no act of kindness is ever wasted should not be lost on us. Someone is always a beneficiary of an act of kindness. Sometimes the beneficiary is someone we love. Sometimes it is us. It is never a wasted act because it can be the difference between remaining on the ledge and falling off the cliff.
We are living in immensely difficult times that can erode the fabric of society. We can also decide if we will let grace and humanity slip out of our grasp. That decision is not based on large acts of altruism, it is more determined by our daily walk.
Photo image description: Small, smiling Black child with missing front teeth positioned next to a caption that reads “kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in love creates love – Lao Tzu”.
This image demonstrates that the work of kindness is just that, work. We have to labor to embody either our highest or lowest selves. For a society to arrive at a place where cruelty, heartlessness and inhumanity are the norms takes a concentrated effort. The same is true in normalizing kindness, empathy and compassion.
We have witnessed what a period of impenetrable darkness can do to a culture. Today, World Kindness Day reminds us of all the possibilities that being a lighthouse can offer.