Last year I got chicken pox. For the second time. This time it was triggered by getting the shingles vaccine. They give you a list of possible side effects of the shot before you get it, but don’t mention chicken pox because it is a rare side effect. One pox is annoying; two are very annoying; hundreds really take a toll on your disposition and view of the world.
Micro aggressions are like that. For those of you unfamiliar with the word, you may be familiar with the experience. The person who pulls in front of you in traffic nearly crashing into you. The person who cuts the line at the market claiming they only have a few items and you don’t mind do you. But for many people who are a different race, ethnicity or religion from the prevailing one in any community, these micro aggressions have a more destructive effect. The white person who gets off the elevator when a black man steps on it is this kind of micro aggression. Like the chicken pox, one is just annoying, but they have a cumulative dispiriting effect on the recipient.
So I propose practicing micro kindness in the year ahead. Make eye contact with the homeless person on the street corner. Let someone ahead of you in line. Take time to question your reaction to a person who is different from you. Avoid patronizing the person in the wheelchair. Greet the grumpy neighbor. In the picture above I am making a friendly overture to a dog who is potentially a menace, but I don’t seem to notice. The fence provides safety, but I am not running away. I am risking connection. I am going to try it consistently this year. Let me know if you have experiences practicing micro kindness. We can swim upstream against the tide of belligerence, bigotry and aggression.
Peace to all this new year.
I choose to not show any pictures of people in my family who are still living, believing that they deserve privacy. So this stock image will have to suffice to substitute for my actual grandchildren.I have been reflecting on kindness this Advent, and now reflect on the kindness of children. My own grandchildren to be specific.
On Saturday they showed up at my door to get out all the Christmas decorations I have in the basement. I have always worn myself out carrying all the boxes upstairs and setting everything up. That day, they carried everything upstairs, just needing me to point to what needed to go. Then they opened all the boxes and set up decorations where I had put them in previous years. They are only 7 and 9, but they had a clear sense of what went where. They rearranged things just enough to show their involvement, but basically repeated what they had seen in earlier years.
We saved the tree ornaments and lights for next weekend when we all go to Charlie Brown’s Tree Farm(the real name!) and cut a tree and buy wreaths for both of our houses. One of their dogs is still young enough to attack a tree, so ours will be the only one this year.
I was touched to the core by their kindness that day. They squealed with delight each time something they remembered was unpacked. They set all the musical decor playing at once knowing it made me crazy(but in a good way.) I ended up with a decorated house and my energy intact.
I don’t know who this man is, just a friend of my grandfather’s. He stopped by to show me a baby porcupine he had rescued and was caring for. He respects my hesitancy, even as he smiles reassuringly. After all, what little girl would want to approach a porcupine?
The kindness of strangers can be comforting in challenging situations, even if they don’t involve porcupines. At the doctor’s office yesterday, the new nurse went out of her way to make me feel at ease. She never said that I looked nervous; she just was consistently kind in her manner and warm in her countenance.
I am making it a point this Advent to focus on kindness I see in others’ small gestures. It can be someone opening a door, carrying someone else’s suitcase, or giving directions to a lost motorist.
There is a lot of quiet kindness going on around us if we stop to look for it.
A few years ago I frequently spotted bumper stickers urging us to practice “random acts of kindness.” I was always irritated at a low level way by the use of the word “random.” I realized that I wanted a bumper sticker that said “practice intentional acts of kindness.” It’s those acts that I have been reflecting on so far in Advent. The intentional things that others have done that have encouraged me throughout my life.I guess it can feel good to do something anonymously, but I have always appreciated the face to face context for kindness shown to me.
I enjoy this picture of me with a younger sibling who is clearly distressed. I seem to be trying to figure out what would help her to cheer her up.
I am reminded of a neighbor of mine when I was a single mother and my child and I were both very ill with a stomach bug. Everett was a widower and already in his late 70’s when we met. After not seeing us for two days, he came over to the house with a bowl of strawberry jello. He said,”I’m not much of a cook, but I thought this would help you feel better.”
An intentional act of kindness.