Elementary Kindness

What I want is so simple I almost can't say it: elementary kindness.

--Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Lately I have heard many stories of dismissal and rejection. What frequently makes these recounted experiences all the more heartbreaking is the source of the denunciation--a family member, partner, friend, or other loved one. Given that our brains are like velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive ones, we need to focus on and savor the positive experiences in our lives to counteract the harm caused by such forsaking messages.*

Happily, elementary kindness abounds if we pause long enough to notice and absorb it on a daily basis. Moreover, and particularly as adults, we can choose to actively seek out people who readily honor their own and our inherent value and worth. Even when acceptance, appreciation, and generosity are in short supply within our immediate households and communities, we can remind ourselves of their existence by finding them elsewhere.

The Internet, for example, has an abundant supply of reminders about the intrinsic goodness of human beings. I recently came across a compilation of photos that went viral and included this letter from a father to his son:

Credit to Viralnova

"I've known you were gay since you were six. I've loved you since you were born." In these 16 words, I hear so much elementary kindness: I love you as you are. I want you to be your authentic self. We belong to each other. You are safe with me. You matter.

That same compilation contained the following photo and caption:

Credit to Viralnova

I just wish I knew how the young man shown above experienced this show of solidarity. This image reminds me that we do not need to upend institutions to challenge discrimination and injustice. We oftentimes do need a sense of humor and a willingness to believe that small acts of kindness--rooted in an intention to honor everyone's dignity--can ripple outward in unimaginable ways.

Each day has 86,400 seconds. That is a lot of moments to refocus our energy on giving and receiving the kind of elementary kindness that makes us want to get out of bed in the morning, and make the world a little safer for the expression of our authentic selves.


* I'm borrowing from neuropsychologist Rick Hanson here and highly recommend the many resources available on his website.