2020 has certainly been a year for the history books, hasn’t it? I keep thinking ahead to the future, wondering how the year will look with the advantage of hindsight. How will this year ultimately be remembered?
And what I keep coming back to, unfortunately, is one word: Turmoil. 2020 has been a year of turmoil. And I’m not just talking about the pandemic or riots or upcoming election. It’s easy to point at the headlines and claim that those will be our only legacies. The truth–as unbelievable as it may seem–is that we most remember the people and moments that aren’t front page news. Those “everyday” stories are the ones that stay with us because, put simply, they are our stories.
We are most intrigued by the ordinary people who endured momentous times. We ask ourselves: How did they manage to live through the Civil War? The World Wars? The Great Depression?
Because those people, the ones just managing to live through it, are the ones who ultimately keep the human story moving forward.
Barbara Kingsolver described this simple fact best in The Poisonwood Bible. (She is primarily describing women, but the sentiment can apply to the “every-person” as well. ) Kingsolver writes:
“I only know the middle ground where we live our lives. We whistle while Rome burns, or we scrub the floor, depending. Don’t dare presume there’s shame in the lot of a woman who carries on.”
So, here we are in 2020. Here we are living our lives and just getting through it all. And how are we doing it?
With arguments. With violence. With disrespect.
At least, these seem to be the most prevalent. I hope that they’re not; just simply the loudest.
Not long ago, my husband and I were sitting on the front porch and he wanted to play me a Jimmy Buffet song he’d come across. We were listening to it, enjoying the type of relaxation that can only come from good ole Mr. Buffet, when a particularly loud car revved its engine right down our street. For a moment, that was all we could hear. The music was still playing, but it was lost to the noise. But then, the car drove away, and Jimmy was back:
“And there’s that one particular harbour,
Sheltered from the wind,
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within.”*
I think kindness is a lot like that moment on the porch. Right now, everything else–the arguing, the rudeness, the dissent–is just louder.
And it comes from all sides, from every viewpoint on every opinion imaginable. Five minutes on Facebook is all it takes to feel knotted up inside.
We all have opinions. And we all have the right to express those opinion, especially when they concern our health and safety. We even have the right to be unkind. There’s no law that says we have to be nice to one another.
That’s something that can’t be legislated, and it shouldn’t be: Because kindness should be a game we’re all willing to play, no questions asked.
So today, I’m issuing a challenge: Do something kind for someone else. Take a moment of your time to keep the world spinning in a positive way. If enough of us do it, then maybe kindness won’t be so overwhelmed by the noise anymore. Sure, there will be discourse. Sure, there will anger. And sometimes, those options are the right ones. Sometimes, enough is just enough.
But is that true in the everyday, simple conversations we have? To the everyday, “middle ground” people who are just doing the best that they can in an often scary situation?
I suppose that’s ultimately up to you. Nobody can make someone else be kind.
But imagine, for a moment, what 2020 would be like if kindness had spread as far as COVID-19.
This will be a year for the history books. And one day, people will look back and wonder: How did they live through it?
Well… how did we? The answer is up to us.
*From “One Particular Harbor”