I’ve had the good fortune to see quite a lot of kindness in my life, but never more than I have in the last year. To me, kindness looks like selflessness. Giving your own time, energy, or resources to someone else who may need them, without expecting anything in return.
Most recently, as the polar vortex tore through the US and resources were pushed to their limits, I saw communities come together to help each other through. Where I am in Boise, the impact was mild but we still saw over 8 inches of snow. Of course, I, being a new homeowner originally from the South, did not own a snow shovel, and found myself with a driveway and car packed with snow.
A neighbor saw my struggle and came over with his shovel and a brush for the car to help me dig my way out. Another neighbor, seeing us work, arrived with a spare shovel that he then gifted to me so that I could keep my driveway clear for the next couple of days of snow. With that bit of kindness, the gift of their time, energy, and resources, I was able to keep things safe and clear.
I wasn’t the only one, either. Neighbors all down the street showed up to help the elderly with their driveways when they couldn’t clear them, and worked together to create a safe path down a road that the city won’t plow.
In my hometown of Austin, TX things aren’t quite so mild. With statewide power outages and resulting water and food shortages, they’re facing yet another unprecedented crisis. But, the community is coming together and showing kindness in any way they can. People lucky enough to have power are opening their homes to friends and neighbors who need a warm bed.
Hugs in the mail box
My experience of kindness always seems to come down to the little things. A smile, a shared memory, a random act of kindness towards someone unknown, charity without ego, and any action which is born out of gratitude for life without the need for any recognition. A gift without the need to receive a gift in return. A hug is a “little thing” which really goes a long way. Today, for me, kindness is any action which replaces a hug during the pandemic, when giving someone a hug is not possible.
My own personal experience has been that all hugs are replaced by snail mail. My best friend has been sending me hand written letters. I have replied to them. Every time we write each other, it is without expectation; there is no rule that we must reply. But every time the mail arrives, and I receive something written by hand from my bestie, I feel loved. Every time I reply and mail something her way, I feel as though I am loving her. These are the little things that make everything else feel easier and feel as kind as a hug. As a result I’ve been learning more and more about small businesses who create beautiful stationary. When is the last time you sent someone a letter, or received a letter written by hand?
Presents on my doorstep
For me, kindness is simply caring for other people. Sometimes that expresses itself in small ways like surprise cookies when a friend has had a hard week at work, or random presents in the mail just because you were thinking about them. But it can also mean volunteering time at a local food bank, or showing respect. It all boils down to thinking about others and trying to make them feel better without any expectations. The reward for kindness is being kind.
Last week was a pretty tough one for me personally, and I can't tell you how much it meant to come home one day and see a bunch of seedlings, my favorite cookie, and some homemade lemon bars waiting for me on my doorstep. Three of my friends locally had gotten together and coordinated a drop-off to let me know they were thinking about me, and I am not at all ashamed to say that I cried a little bit telling them all how much it meant to me.