Not The Target Market

Kindness Is Always In Fashion

kindness-boys-on-pathThe Model and I went for a power walk this morning. As she stepped out in stylish exercise wear, she looked like she was ready for a photo shoot. Even without makeup or her hair done, she looked beautiful.

I, on the other hand, showed up looking like I just staggered off the boat: Ratty, ancient stretched-out yoga pants, a baggy tee shirt, a hoodie that first saw the light of day during the Reagan administration and a pair of running shoes that I had last worn when I gave the garden a good weeding, and which still had bits of mud and grass clinging to them.

The contrast between our two styles is further accentuated by our frames. The Model is long and lithe. I am not. In fact, I am the polar opposite of those two adjectives. It probably looked as if The M. was taking her pet for a walk. Or if not that, then most likely, the early morning commuters were thinking: “Well, thank heavens she’s got a trainer at last. Maybe she can also get wardrobe advice while she’s at it.”

Back home, as I showered and dressed, I got to thinking. The two of us not only look very different, we also act differently. I tend more toward reticence. The Model is the friendliest person I know. She has a greeting for everyone, known and unknown. Even the teenage boy, who was determined to sidle past us and not look up, was forced to make eye contact when confronted with The Model’s big smile and a “Good Morning!”

My original intent at this point was to segue into thoughts on friendship and how despite outward appearances, the human race is more alike than different, and how this makes all the snark and vilification and aggression and demonization of “the other” both in the mainstream media, and on social media, all the more sad. Because, frankly, there isn’t “an other.” There is only “an us.” But, no matter how I worded it, these thoughts, which sounded so profound in my brain, ended up being a sermon, overflowing with triteness and completely lacking any real wisdom.

So I was stuck. In letting the whole post rest for a bit, I went to Mass, where the first reading for today (2 Timothy 2:8-15) included

“…charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen.”

At home again, I flipped through e-mail and read a few articles. The first, by Simcha Fisher, ended with this paragraph (read the whole post here):

I think we can and should take a page from Tomie dePaola: if he, as a liberal gay man, can take what seems valuable to him from the wisdom and culture of the Church, and if he can decline to waste any time publicly griping about what offends him, then we, as parents and as readers, should take what seems valuable in the work of Arnold Lobel, and decline to waste any time papering over what is good and true with extraneous information about the author — which, in the context of his stories, truly is extraneous, even meaningless.

Can we not learn to do this in general, not just with children’s books?  Can we not look for the good, the true, and the beautiful and hope to find them all together, even in unexpected places? “Test all things; hold fast that which is good.” There really isn’t any other way to live.

Then, in another article reporting on a May 29 talk by Pope Francis, there was this:

“The level of aggressiveness in our world needs to be dialed down. (The world) needs tenderness, meekness, (people) listening and walking together,”

along with

“It is important to listen to others and ask questions — not argue right away — but inquire in order to truly understand the other person’s point of view and find points in common…”

I began to detect a theme to my day. I am fully aware that each of these examples speaks to slightly different things. Nevertheless, they are on the same continuum – that of calmness and kindness. The world currently lacks both; but apparently, if Timothy could write as he did, it has lacked these things for at least 2000 years.

I remember telling my mother when I was young, that it would be easy to “fix” the world: all everyone would have to do is be kind to one another – then there would be no more war and no more poverty. When she agreed, I asked her why no one did this (meaning why didn’t some world leader impose it – ahh the naiveté of children.) She said peoples’ egos got in the way. However, she added, there was no reason that we, in this family, couldn’t be kind.

So, what would happen if we remembered this every time we are about to throw a verbal bomb? What if instead of cheap wit or sarcasm, we substituted kindness? What if instead of thinking the worst, we thought the best? And not just for Lent, but for always? The odds of the world as a whole taking up this challenge are not good; however, that doesn’t keep any single one of us from trying.  And trying again each time we fail.

The Model, besides being beautiful is already incredibly kind, but even her kindness can not bridge the gap of our “structural” differences. The Daughter still thinks one of the funniest stories she’s ever heard was my telling her that once when I was complaining about having nothing to wear to some function or other, The Model offered to lend me anything in her closet.

Clearly she is the best type of friend ever – one who is blind to “the more solid details” and thinks that we have everything in common!

1 Comment

  1. Kevin

    Lemme get this straight…Mom told you that “there was no reason that we, in this family, couldn’t be kind”.

    How did that work out in your youthful attitude towards your younger brother?

    Uh oh …Was that a verbal bomb, cheap wit or sarcasm?

    Reply

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