“I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” — Gandalf (J.R.R. Tolkein, “The Hobbit”)
There’s an old anecdote about a Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. I think it’s safe to say many feel that these times are more “interesting” than we might like. Pandemic, economic uncertainty, racial issues, and all of this in an election year no less! What can we do?
I would like to suggest kindness. Intentional, radical kindness. Let’s be good to each other.
Let’s take masking, for example. These pieces of cloth have become very contentious. I have friends on either side, and I have advice for both.
Masking friends, you will not persuade others to put masks on with humiliation or intentional shaming. You don’t make friends with “you just want people to die”. But a friend, if you stay kind, just might put on a mask for you, even if they don’t want to.
On the other side, anti-mask friends, you don’t win anyone over by using the word “sheeple.” Yes, you have a right to decide whether or not to wear a mask, but you can choose not to be rude about it, even when you meet rude people on the other side. Ultimately, you want other people to be cool with your choices, so keep cool, and coolness can prevail.
Here’s another area where I think that radical kindness would do us a world of good. In Fayette, parents have been asked to commit to either a virtual track or a “brick and mortar with flexibility” track. It’s not a simple decision.
How do working parents maintain careers and adequately supervise their kids if the kids have to stay home? This is a concern both for the virtual track and the red/yellow conditions of the B&M track.
Also, as we learned last spring, not all children take equally to virtual learning. Not all classes will be taught virtually. Some families have personal reasons to be particularly worried about this virus. And after months of few summer camps and few play dates, many kids are hungry for interactions with friends. Decisions about our kids are very important, and often very difficult.
My fellow parents: Please know that as my wife and I have made our decisions on how to care for our kids, we have had no thought of casting judgment on your own decisions, even if we have decided differently. You know your circumstances in a way I can’t.
Please be kind to other parents, as well as to the teachers, who are also dealing with uncharted territory. And be kind to yourselves. Many of us will have to make tough decisions like this again and again, as our children grow through the years.
Friends, we are in a world of fear, uncertainty, and hostility right now. You have it in your power to be someone else’s beacon of hope. I’m not asking you to cave on principles or give up what you believe. I’m not telling you how to live or make your decisions. All I am saying is that kindness, even to other unkind people, can go a long way to making a better world.
In one of my favorite moments on the TV show “Blue Bloods,” Frank Reagan tells his granddaughter, “Life isn’t fair. But you can be.”