When we lived in Atlanta, my oldest daughter attended International Community School, a public charter serving the local refugee and immigrant community. About half of the students were refugees or immigrants, and for kindergarten and first grade, it was an extraordinary place to be. In the face of the refugee ban and travel restrictions, the neighborhood flooded the school entrance with signs of support and love. It started with a lone sign and they quickly multiplied, with friends and strangers rushing to assure the kids and their families that they belong, that they are loved.
It can be easy to forget that “refugees” or “immigrants” refers to individuals, to families, that are just like us, but born in a different place. The school’s neighbors went out of their way to recognize that to the school community immigration and refugee policies are not just policy, but affect people’s lives. And they made a statement that they consider these refugees and immigrants to be part of the community, not separate from it.
Here’s the CNN story with a few more details (and the school Facebook account has more photos of the inspiring signs).
I’m thinking about how to show kindness to strangers in troubled times, to recognize their humanity and acknowledge their struggle. What do you think?
I experienced a rare kindness at the grocery store this week. I had the baby strapped to me as usual and as I hoisted things from the cart to the conveyor belt, the woman behind me asked if she could help me. She said she remembered how it was to do things like that weighed down by a baby. I was almost done anyway, and politely thanked her, but for the last couple of days I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m forced to conclude that I am not terribly open to receiving kindness. A big part of this is that I loathe imposing on others, so I hate asking for help unless it’s absolutely necessary. And I’ve been told I project the impression that I simply don’t need help, so honestly, I don’t think it’s offered much. But even when it is, accepting it is very difficult for me, almost repellent. Part of that is the feeling that I’m imposing, and part of it is exposing weakness, that I can’t do everything myself. I also feel obligated to do things by myself as long as I’m able, even if it’s more difficult alone. At the same time, I appreciate opportunities to be kind to others, which I’m denying to other people with my resistance to accepting.
I don’t have a profound conclusion here; it’s just something I’m musing on.
I’m finding Christmas particularly stressful this year. There are cards, presents, and events for a lot of different people, and I’m overwhelmed and low on resources. I was pondering what of the great Christmas task list I might be able to drop, and it occurred to me that some of these things I actually enjoy, some the recipient actually enjoys (obviously these two ideally overlap), and some are just obligatory on both sides. I’m having trouble figuring out which things are which (primarily because I don’t know for sure what the recipient actually thinks since I’m not in that person’s head). Does everyone who gets a Christmas card perceive it as kindness? Probably not. If my only contact with a person on the Christmas card list *is* the Christmas card…does that make it more, or less important that I send it? I really have no way of knowing, so I just have to go with how I’d perceive it (which could very well be wrong). None of this overthinking has actually resulted in a smaller to-do list, by the way, though it does have me considering that I ought to balance kindness to myself along with the kindness of gifts, social interaction, etc. And I’m not really sure how to let some obligations drop to enhance my own enjoyment of the holidays, which are at the moment just something I have to get through while executing a number of tasks, all with tight deadlines, most of which are set by tradition and/or other people.
This got me thinking in a broader way about perception of kindness from the point of view of the giver versus the recipient. Ideally, those perceptions would be similar, but they aren’t always. How do you make sure that your kindness is aligned with what the recipient thinks is kindness (this is obviously easier with close friends and family than with strangers)?
And back to my original thoughts, how do you balance the demands of kindness to others with kindness to yourself?
I have actually come to post a few times and been brought up short by a dearth of kindness. Sure, I have other related topics to ponder, but I haven’t felt like I’ve done anything particularly kind recently. A misdirected package gave me an opportunity today, and though it was a tiny thing, it made me happy to do it. The mail carrier dropped off a stack of boxes yesterday, and at the bottom was one meant for a different house up the street. Only the first number in common with my house number, so she must have grabbed it by mistake. So I took the baby on a walk this morning and left the package at the right house with an anonymous note explaining what had happened. Probably I only saved the recipient a small amount of distress and hassle, but it was nice to do nonetheless.
How do you find opportunities for kindness when they don’t simply appear on your doorstep?
The Compliment Project
I was just reading about this and wondered what others thought. I think it’s a nice idea, certainly, but I’m wondering about the actual impact. I think seeing one of these would make me smile, and that’s probably enough. But I’m not sure a compliment from an unseen stranger could have a deeper impact beyond an “oh, that’s sweet.” I don’t see it improving my self-esteem or lifting depression. Perhaps the knowledge that there are people out there making selfless gestures to cheer up strangers would be a mood lifter. But I’m inclined to think that a meaningful, personal kindness would be a better use of time and energy as far as actually making a difference.
What do you think? Empty gesture? Meaningful connection? Somewhere in between? How would encountering this change your day/mood/outlook?
This article is worth a read. It helps explain a persistent feeling I’ve had of being unable to relate to people on the other side of the political spectrum. It felt like we were living in completely different worlds. Turns out, we are.
How We Broke Democracy
I was in an absolutely terrible mood because I needed to get a recalled air bag in my car fixed, along with a regular oil change, and the customer service rep thought it would be over three hours. And I was trapped at the car dealership with a baby. The rep got me out in less than an hour and a half, saying that she’s a mom too and did what she could to make it fast. I’m not sure how much effort pushing my repair through cost her, but she had no real incentive beyond improving my day (although of course I’ve contacted her manager to praise her kindness). I’m hoping to find a way to pay that kindness forward today.
I did not expect to find kindness at the car dealership; I suppose it’s possible wherever kind people are.
I almost didn’t post this because it seems lame, but thinking that sharing kindness is lame is part of the problem. I was at the grocery store with the baby, in a long line, when an employee told the woman behind me that he was opening another register. She started to follow, then turned to me and said, “I’m sure you want to get the baby home. Why don’t you go on ahead of me?” And that made a difference to me today.