‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Mahatma Gandhi
The boys and I used to play a game. If you could have one wish… Or three. What would you wish for? One of mine was always ‘that there is enough kindness in the world’. The boys would smile and tilt their heads.
Of all the things you could wish for, Mom? Of all. Of any. Just like that.
Kindness. It’s what we crave. Smiles and warmth; the touch of brightness that someone’s kindness brings forth and makes into a hug. The thing that’s often the hardest to give.
Not because we don’t want to, but because we’re often locked inside. Because somehow, somewhere, when we were just about opening our eyes to the world, we were met, every now and then, with a cold breeze rather than the warm one our hearts were primed for.
So we learned to hide the wish we wished for. Kindness. We learned to say ‘perhaps I am not worthy of it’… Then, an even colder breeze took ‘perhaps’ away and the certainty of unworthiness spread like an algae plume taking over a lake. Clear becomes opaque and troubled. We’ve all been there, we’ve all lingered a bit too long at times in that realm.
Kindness reverses it. It is always a few words away, a hug away, from wherever we are, whenever… It’s what we need the most of, it is what we often give or receive the least of.
I will always remember the last conversation I had with my Mom. It was kind and warm like an embrace. The last moments I had with my Dad were hugs and tears. Kindness and forgiveness became the ground for later understanding that without them every day is a burden. But each burden becomes a lesson. Each memory too.
I carry mine as you carry yours. We ought to remember the occasional unkindness too. Loud voices, storming away from people, seeking a refuge. Wanting to be at peace with the world and yourself, but running away from both. We all do it until we learn that until kindness comes from within, it can never happen for real…
The parting words to last us into the next hour, or the next day, or the rest of our life… are they going to just echoes of the stomping and the shadows of frowns?… The regret of having let go of kindness for a bit becomes a sharp bite and then a healing wound.
We learn kindness from understanding that we’re all fallible, all humbled by how easy it becomes to bring our hearts and minds to a new start. ‘Try again’ is a soft breeze that takes us sailing farther than anger and resentment ever could…
To be kind is a choice. One that has us open our eyes to a new day and say ‘I want to be kind’. One that has us look into ourselves and upon seeing all the broken bits, we take a deep breath and think that all that we are – broken bits included – deserves kindness. We walk on the path where others walked too, we see the wells of their steps filled by the same: joy and sadness, hope – lost and found again, will to live and love, desire to be listened to and understood, the need for kindness. We gain compassion for the other travelers when we stop to soothe our own aching feet.
To be kind is a choice that powers more than our face muscles to open into a smile. It is what makes us reach to those who need a word, a hug, or no sound at all, but a listening ear. It is what makes us forgive and ask for forgiveness. It is us be willing to show ourselves vulnerable. It is what makes us soar, tattered wings and all. It is what mends them…
To be kind is a choice that allows us to build instead of destroy and see instead of turning a blind eye. To be kind is to come to the realization that we are the measure of kindness and through what we give we can make someone’s world brighter. And just like that, kindness fills the heart of those who give it.
That’s why I wish for it when I’m asked. Not because I am always kind, but because I need to remember to be. Because I can choose.