I was watching a documentary on the Sixties recently. One of the big slogans of that era was “Be Kind.” When I was in high school I was convinced I should have been born in that era. Friends thought that too. I was into Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund and anti chlorofluorocarbons. I loved The Mamas and The Papas and folk singers and my Best of the 60s cassette tape. I wrote a research paper on Haight-Ashbury. A friend from high school called me a “clique queen” because he thought I belonged to so many cliques; but the truth is I felt I belonged nowhere, so I was just kind to everyone.
When I was counseling clients for my Masters degree, I realized after working with many couples, that kindness was key to the success of their relationship. If they were still able, despite their differences, to be kind to each other, there was hope. If the idea of being kind to each other was more repugnant than having their fingernails pulled out, it usually meant they had both already given up on their relationship and each simply didn’t want to be the one to end it.
Social media horrifies me at times. It seems to promote the idea that if someone disagrees with you, it’s not only acceptable but expected that you unfriend them (after you publicly denounce them as idiots for not thinking as you do). The idea of respecting individuals with differing opinions, ideals, or beliefs seems to have become a foreign concept. Almost as foreign as being kind to those same people.
Maybe it’s because I was taught in school to present both sides of any argument that I learned to have value for people who don’t think as I do. I don’t feel the need to banish them from my life or from my friends list if they don’t agree with my faith or my politics or my personal values. I desire diversity among my friends, not only in ancestry but in ideas. While I admit sometimes it is painful to hear the hatred attached to their concept of my views; without question is spurs me to be a better person. The differences lead me to think more deeply about who I am and what I believe and how I live. They are never a reason to not be kind.
I hope we, as a nation, are able to reclaim kindness. To stop yelling about why we are right and start listening to what others have to say. Maybe then we can see how often we really want the same things. We all want to feel safe in our daily lives, to know our loved ones are safe where they are. We all want a better world for our children.