Surviving This Crazy World through Small Acts of Kindness

Sometimes the world seems overwhelmingly dark. These past couple weeks have been rough as the supreme court nomination process somehow turned into a referendum on whether to believe survivors of sexual assault. Just when I think we’re making some progress as a society, I am forcibly reminded of how far we have to go. “She should have reported sooner.” “She’s probably lying.” “That doesn’t even ‘count’ as assault.” “You can’t hold a youthful indiscretion against such an upstanding man.”

I got called pathetic by a friend of a friend for daring to suggest that white male privilege was a real thing. The scathing condemnation came from a woman. Sometimes it’s all too much.

I was reaching the point of boycotting the universe in favor of hiding under the covers, eating chocolate and listening to Tori Amos, when the person in front of me in the Starbucks drive-through paid for my chai latte. That small gesture made my day and helped recalibrate my wounded soul.

There are small acts of kindness all around us, but it can be easy to lose sight of them. I tried to pay attention this week, collecting and savoring those brief moments.

My neighbors brought over a plate of fresh-baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. They were several steps beyond delicious.

My oldest daughter paused in the midst of the chaos that is weekday mornings to brush her little sister’s hair and help put on her shoes.

In a children’s art class, I witnessed the wildest and most difficult student solicitously comforting a younger artist who was weeping over a fish drawing gone awry.

I returned home from work one day to find my lawn freshly mowed, the driveway swept, and my hedges trimmed, thanks to the loving ministrations of my dad.

A woman I didn’t know stopped me on the street to tell me how proud she was that we had persevered on the mural project, and how beautiful the finished piece looked.

None of these events was earth shattering. Most were barely a blip on the radar of my busy days. It can be so easy to miss the small moments of meaningful connection unless we make a point of looking for them. As a family, we try to take time to share examples we have seen of people being kind – to each other and to us – but I’ll freely admit that I often forget to prompt the activity.

One night this week, my youngest daughter reminded me that we hadn’t done “the kindness bowl” in a while. It was already past bedtime, so I suspect that it was a stalling tactic as much as anything, but how could I say no? So we got down our smooth, wooden bowl and each grabbed a few buckeyes from a bag. We passed the bowl around and took turns noting a kind exchange we had witnessed, placing a nut into the bowl with each recitation.

The big picture still makes me sad and nauseous and often speechless with rage. I continue to wade into unwinnable battles on Facebook – even though I know it’s futile – because to be silent is to be complicit. But these small moments remind me that humans can, in fact, be good to each other.

I repaid the karma of the Starbucks line by buying for the person behind me. I hope that the chain reaction continued. It certainly helped my outlook on life.

And speaking of things that help ones outlook on life – I will be on vacation next week!! Stay tuned for tales from our very first big family vacation when I return to the printed word on October 20th.

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