Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.
For a year now our Provincial health officer, epidemiologist Dr. Bonnie Henry, has repeated these three imperatives at the end of every daily update. The three adorn t-shirts, billboards, and tea towels. A close friend, for whom the pandemic has only compounded significant life challenges, said that’s what seems most important to her right now—kindness.
In an interview in our local paper this week, Dr. Henry elucidates how kindness is not just about being nice.
Kindness is about understanding that we’re all connected, there is a common suffering, and we can’t always know how someone else is holding themselves together. Some have support, while others don’t. Rather than reacting, we need to take a breath and have compassion.
Maybe connection is kindness.
Each week I email a Sunday lesson for the children in our congregation. We are fortunate to have a curriculum that emphasizes contemplative practices. A couple of weeks ago, one of those practices was to help us think about God by remembering God’s creation and by observing God’s way. Each evening, we remember what we did and saw that day using these suggestions:
I’ve been ending the day answering these questions myself most evenings and noticing matters.
- Sit quietly for a moment.
- What beauty do you remember seeing in the world today?
- Give God thanks for creating the beauty in our world.
- When did you see someone showing God’s love to someone else?
- Give thanks for teaching us how to be loving and kind.
The street where I live has no sidewalks and is only accessible to enter from the north end except for walkers and cyclist. So, it not unusual for people to literally walk down the middle of the street and that is what I observed as I set out with the dog in the late afternoon. Two men (I am assuming dads) and two tiny girls were walking; the girls in the middle of the street, holding each other’s hand. They were dressed appropriately for the cool day in long pants and jackets and a tulle skirt happily bouncing as they walked. As one of the girls turned, I noticed the tiny cloth mask (pandemic style) she also wore. I couldn’t help but smile.
As my dog and I approached, the dads alerted the girls to move over so we could pass. It was a privilege and joyful to walk behind them, but we passed and went on down the street, lighter and kinder, too.
That evening when I reflected on those questions from our Sunday lesson, I smiled again as I remembered that moment—beauty and kindness walk hand in hand. I live in an astoundingly beautiful part of the natural world and on this day, those two little ones walking offered me, simply an observer, a gift.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, plant ecologist and author of Braiding Sweetgrass, understands kindness as a medicine that arises out of vulnerability. The medicine in that vulnerability is an awareness that regenerates kindness and compassion.