The events of the past few days have conspired against me and I now feel compelled to write about them. Not that this is an unusual state of affairs for me; I love to record my experiences so I can look back again later and laugh, be it at the comedy of a situation, or at my own hubris in thinking that I’d ever be able to control the situation in the first place. However this time is different. This time I feel not only compelled to write, but to share it with others. Thus, joining the ranks of millions of others who have something to say, think they’re right about everything, and want a public forum to prove it, I’m creating a blog. I’ve caved. I’ll conform. I held out in college for a while and didn’t get a facebook until L, of all people, joined up, and now I’m addicted. I suppose the same holds true here. I read the blogs of friends and strangers daily, and I marvel at their insights, wit and general normalcy, which always brings a smile to my face. I hope that here I too can do one of the same for someone else out there.
Lofty goals, eh? No promises. One can never tell if this sort of thing will stick. I certainly have an opinion on everything and I won’t hesitate to share it with you if you ask, so this seems like a good arena for that sort of thing. Unless you want my opinion on where to go to dinner or what move to see. In which case I don’t care. At all. Really I don’t. S wants to go see Twilight? Fine, I’ll humor you. N wants to eat at The Pub? Fine, whatever. It’s the company I’m after, not the location. M wants to know what I think about the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and C wants to know what I think about the freaking pot hole out on Amsterdam? Then yes. Yes, I do in fact have something to say. Though again. No promises. This may be a one shot deal that I grow weary of – you all know how easily I can get bored and/or distracted. (If you don't know, let me just say that...oooooohhh look!!! Shiny!!!)
A caveat: names will be changed to protect the guilty. And the innocent as well, I suppose, though I don’t know exactly what they need protection from… At any rate, first initials will do just fine. Unless your name begins with a J, in which case I’ll have to make it a little clearer, as there seem to be an inordinate number of you. Of particular interest will be those with the initials JP. One of you two will have to be JP2. I know exactly which one as well, especially since all of my Catholic friends (there are a lot) will read JP2 and think John Paul II, and I think that will push all the right buttons and be sufficiently irritating to you, and I do love to stir the pot, so congratulations, you’re now associated with the Vatican, whether you want to be or not. J
Well, all that said, on to the main event, I suppose.
What I want to discuss is the issue of kindness and optimism, and how one sort of breeds the other. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the everyday madness of wars and kidnappings and political feuds that it’s easy to overlook how far acts of kindness can go, and the meaningful impacts that they can have. Take the following examples from my weekend…
My mom came in to visit this Saturday, which was a much-needed dose of normalcy for me, and I think she had fun as well. We hung out with A and watched football and toured my hood and did a few touristy things, and my mom became fairly comfortable with the daily routine of my new life. So much so, that on the subway platform some clearly lost girls asked her which train went to Columbia, and she directed them to the correct line and told them what stop to get off at. Not a big deal, just directions (though if they’d asked her how to get anywhere else, she wouldn’t have known what to say, it just happened to be the route we’d taken every day during her visit). However we got on the train with them, and at their stop, the girls were so engrossed in their conversation that they made no move to get off. As we passed by, she told them they needed to get off here, and they scrambled to gather their things and make it past the already closing doors. I daily find this kind of kindness surprising, though it shouldn’t be that way. Incidents like this should become daily occurrences. There was no incentive for my mom to give the girls directions in the first place, much less to shoo them off the train later on when they were about to miss their stop. She didn’t know them, had no personal stake in weather they reached their destination or not, yet she still “mothered” them and pointed them off in the right direction.
This is the first type of kindness that inspires optimism in me. Things like this should be more common. People taking an interest in others, merely because they are there. Not because they expect anything in return, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. I see occurrences like this every day, which inspires me to act the same, but I still see them not enough. I am continually surprised when people help others for no apparent reason, and it should not be that way. Being compassionate and caring toward others should be such a common occurrence that we are more surprised when it doesn’t happen rather than when it does. That said, I still found the following example to be surprising.
On Sunday, the little sister, who shall henceforth be known as Mei Mei (mad props if you understand the obscure reference as to why I chose this nickname) got kicked in the shin during her soccer game. Isn’t that what shin guards are for, you may ask? Well, yes, but hers were starting to slip, and it was the end of the game, and she didn’t bother to fix them. Which ended quite poorly for the poor thing if I do say so myself. Anyway, J took her home as usual, but after being there for a bit, it was hurting badly enough that she thought she needed an x-ray. Now, the girl has been banged up before, and she’s played competitive sports for years, so when she thinks she needs an x-ray, she’s not kidding around. However Mom was with me, and Mei Mei has no car, student health services is closed on Sunday, and she couldn’t really limp herself out to High St. to jump on a bus to go to the ER. So she called J back, he took her to Urgent Care, followed by a pharmacy to get some Vicoden (I wasn’t kidding when I said she knows when she needs to see a doctor), and then back to her dorm. This may seem unremarkable in its telling, which I suppose it is, but the point is not actually about the kid’s nasty bone contusion. It’s actually about the fact that after going home, J came back, hauled Mei Mei around, apparently did so with no complaint whatsoever, and had no real incentive for doing so. Still don’t get why I’m floored by this particular act of kindness? Well, J has no obligations to the sister whatsoever. While he’s one of my good friends, I just kind of thrust Mei Mei on him and the rest of our little group and demanded that they all take care of her while I was gone. What I don’t get is why I’m surprised that they actually do take care of her. There is no incentive at all to give up one’s Sunday night and spend it hauling someone else’s sibling to the doctor when you’ve only known said sibling for a short amount of time. I think I’m actually more grateful for this action than the kid is, and she’s the one who needed the narcotics…though here’s hoping she doesn’t start acting like House anytime soon.
This is the second kind of kindness that inspires optimism for me. Unbridled compassion or kindness towards a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a relative of a friend, just because it’s the right thing to do. There is little or nothing to gain from it, other than the notoriety of being labeled a “nice person,” so why bother? When people engage in this kind of behavior, it inspires me to be more compassionate in my own life. A friend needs someone to talk to even though I’m busy paper writing? Perhaps I can step back for a moment and put their needs first, rather than brushing them off in favor of something as paltry as a paper grade. Kindness toward your friends and their associates should be a daily occurrence, in one form or another, and it should inspire others and create optimism. It shouldn't be something that seems so out of place and unusual.
The final kind of kindness that inspires optimism in me would take too long to discuss here. It’s actually the original reason I wanted to post my first blog today, but I guess things here kind of got away from me, and I’ll have to write about it another time, as the length here is getting to be a little absurd (mad props if you’re still reading!). This last kind of kindness is kindness toward a group – a kind of self-sacrifice and unity that you seldom see. The example was from my class today where we discussed women in Afghanistan, who, in order to make sure their daughters are able to attend school without fear of being bombed by the Taliban, host “Tea Parties” every day. Not the Tea Party you hear so much about in the news today, but rather a gathering of women who open up their homes to each other and use their living rooms as classrooms for their daughters. The locations change daily, and the teachers and students gather for class during the afternoons while the mothers sip tea and go about their daily routine in adjacent rooms. This type of unity and kindness toward one another was the original inspiration for this blog, and I’ll try to go in to it more next time, because I found it to be a particularly moving example that inspired me to be more optimistic about my future career. That is, I’ll go into it if anyone’s interested in reading about it… Though I suppose the purpose of a blog is just shameless self-promotion, and I’m fairly adept at that anyway, so perhaps I’ll post it no matter what. Someone out there is bound to find the story just as inspiring as I do...