• Lucia Joyce

Start Kindness With The People In Front Of You

There's no 'beat the game, last-boss level' of kindness. There's no universal standard for how every single person or even two people should be kind. Kindness and compassion are personal, and often felt more by the giver and receiver than any sort of 'audience' searching for answers.

As kids, we wanted to change the world, but the specifics of 'how' weren't exactly known by our teachers and parents. Sesame Street put us on a pretty good general path, and Mr. Rogers, and Lamp Chop's Play Along (if you're me), but most people and media peddle the idea that you can do anything and change the world without much to go on but comic book heroes and Mother Theresa.

If we're lucky, we align with one or more excellent mentors in the kindness department--they aren't Mother Theresa, but they help us feel safe, and capable, and creative, and brave. They listen and do nice things. My grandma would listen to me talk and ask questions for hours when I was 8ish. Everything from "How does knitting work?" to "Why is the bible so weird?" She never seemed too busy to talk to me. She would package her answers in bitesize Loosh-suitable tidbits and just hold steady while I processed it all. Then she would set me up with a bunch of dress-up clothes, or supplies for a fort, or a task in the garden, or an old book. She wasn't a comic book hero, or a saint, but her kindness changed me, and it changed the world.

Kindness, in an 'ideal' sense, isn't some perfectly ordained plan involving all selflessness and no fun. Kindness is a ripple effect through moments and people that teach us something easier than anger, or resentment, or refusal. Kindness is a single meal made with love and just the right timing to be truly enjoyed. Kindness is patience in the socially distanced grocery store lines and parking lots. Kindness is letting yourself sleep in without consequence on occasion. Kindness is a deep breath and knowledge of your mood and intent before your next post on social media. Kindness is being open and willing to listen to the people directly on the path of your day.

Maybe you are saddened by the state of things in the world: increasing COVID-19 cases and the shock and shame of uncovering systemic racism. Maybe you're feeling lost or overwhelmed with all the changes in our lives since lockdowns began. Maybe you want to help: help create more love in your family and friendships, help the Black Lives Matter movement, help the elderly or tireless essential workers. Of course: donate, make phone calls, spread awareness of things that are important to you. But a real understanding of kindness comes from your everyday interactions, AND it's those everyday moments that fuel you up for the bigger tasks.

I spent the whole day with Shane and Simon, making and appreciating music, food, and memories at IKEA. We each claimed a set of Simon's wheels (longboard, rollerskates, and bike) and rolled down the sunny path by the LA River. We plotted our next dance videos, audio recordings, TikToks, and woodworking projects. We danced happily through a half mile line of people at IKEA, we picked out essentials and accents for our home together, then raced home to cook our frozen Swedish (veggie) meatballs. We blended up fruit smoothies and jammed to the tune of the BLM protest chants.

We appreciated, laughed with, and inspired each other. We stayed on a path of empathy and self care. When we needed to go in separate directions or rooms to properly send/receive messages or do our own thing, no judgment or expectation was exchanged. We've created a pretty nice flow. :)

Your day and your physical body is limited to mostly dealing with what's right in front of you. Though the internet rests at our fingertips, we are not bound to 'saving the world' every moment of the day by any set means. Kindness is wider and more encompassing than just the pronounced 'saintly' activities (although if you feel called to make a grand gesture of kindness, I support you with all my being) or 'whatever the internet says you should be doing'. Kindness extends to every conversation and moment of eye contact; every interaction with your food, and plants, and home space, and material things, and self.

Kindness starts right where you are.

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