We’re in dark times now. The deep political divide combined with an ongoing pandemic challenges us all to stay balanced, sane, and level-headed when people, including those we love, diverge from our points of view or our approach to staying healthy. In the midst of it all, and likely because I’m a Pollyanna from way back, I’ve been keeping a catalog of kindness. Those large and small moments exchanged with both friends and strangers that help us overlook our differences and stay focused on what matters most.
I run in the same neighborhood most mornings – with tree-lined streets and well-tended homes. By now I greet the same people each day. After we maneuver to opposite sides of the road or are otherwise at a safe distance, we exchange a smile, a wave, a few words of good morning. One woman leaves vegetables from her garden on a table in her front yard, and I’ve enjoyed her tomatoes and squash. Another family set up a free library box in their front yard, along with a decorated bench to celebrate the joys of reading. It’s my reward to stop and browse, as well as to give and take books there.
I tell a friend about my catalog and she tells me the ways she’s noticed that people are being more kind. In her neighborhood the kids make chalk drawings on the sidewalks and add encouragements like think outside the box, and we are in this together. She has also found painted rocks placed around the neighborhood and while hiking at a local park. Another friend, who lives alone, tells me her younger neighbors check in on her regularly and offer to run errands for her.
To give back, I’m thinking of leaving one of my handwoven towels for the woman who puts out vegetables, and I’ve started saying thank you to people more often, especially grocery store clerks, postal workers, and medical professionals. And I finally said to a young dad, who I see playing with his five year-old daughter in the grassy areas of my apartment complex, that I appreciate what a good father he is. Would I have said that if we were not in this current mess? Maybe, maybe not. I think it takes something like this – the current state of our world – to shake and wake us up to how to love each other. I hope so anyway.
Lee Stevens is a writer and a weaver living in the mountains of western North Carolina.