I really like the word kindness. Not just the word itself, though it is a fun word to say aloud and even write. I really like its’ meaning. Kindness: The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. It’s a word I’ve been pleased to experience much of the time. I appreciate it in whatever form it comes from…. personal exposure, friendly anecdotes and voyeuristic sightings, through to various other creative means of story-telling. To me kindness is inspiring, enjoyable, and comforting. It can be welcoming, surprising and entertaining. What I have noticed most about this standard recently is its’ alarming decrease since last November’s presidential election in the US.
Much has occurred over the past few months that has caused me to pause, mouth ajar. Though where I finally hit the straw that broke my personal camel’s back was when my friend relayed an incident within the past month. She witnessed a random act of way-more than unkindness in midtown Manhattan. In what appeared to have occurred in the proverbial blink of an eye was one Caucasian woman running up to a Muslim woman and pulling her hijab off. This was extraordinarily unsettling for me to hear. My friend and another went over to the woman after this attack and asked if she was all right. With dignity she replied yes and relayed that “this happens all of the time” before her voice broke in distress. As I tried to make some type of connection or sense of this ,my own highly sensitive nature kept coming back to the fact that in its simplest form it was an abrasive lack of kindness that I couldn’t and, frankly still cannot, comprehend. But, really, that is putting it mildly. For these last several weeks, I have been haunted each time I thought about it. And I’ve thought about it a lot.
To have such a vehement disrespect for another’s difference. And, even more so, to have a desire to cause such hurt and shame and violation…where does it come from?
When someone reaches out, in prejudice, and feels that they somehow have a right to cross over into someone else’s personal space in such a way as to demean, it is many things, for sure. At a very holistic level, through my wellness and yogic and—at this juncture—living life “training” I believe it is evidence that this person does not feel whole. When we don’t have the self-respect to honor ourselves fully—owning our shadows, inconsistencies, emotions—and FEARS—it is challenging to provide that to others, especially those who appear different from us. It’s sometimes easier to treat others better than we treat ourselves, particularly when our own self-hate rears its’ ugly head. However at this level of disregard, when it moves into the space that causes a scene such as this one to occur, lashing out toward someone else seems like a better answer than lashing in toward ourselves, which also doesn’t work. This is a possible explanation but in no way an excuse and, sadly, no way a solution.
This next inquiry is not rhetorical. Is it possible and plausible to ask ,before things get much more out of hand, what might it take to go forward—not further backward—and simply be kind to one another?