I have seen an unusual potency of kindness and unkindness in the last couple of weeks.  I suppose they are both around me always in ways I normally breeze past, but I’ve seen them in some up close and personal ways, these fresh bouquets of kindness and dried leaves of the opposite.

The unkindness happened repeatedly online, in response to my articles on various sites.  The thing is, my topics were not even polarized with controversy.  They were just my little stories in the harmless little ways I tell them.  But such loud yelling online has become an epidemic, particularly among those forums where one can post anonymously.  They slaughtered my words.  It was as though my writing was a tender piece of lamb meat tossed into the den of hungry lions. They tore it apart. 

I will not say they tore me apart, because I choose to remember that they don’t know me.  Still, I will admit to some still-tender bruising from vicious comments with my name in them.  Such as, “My takeaway from this article is this: Don’t ever take advice from (insert my name here, except I’m keeping it out because I don’t want this sentence circulating anywhere else on the internet) about anything. At all.  Ever.” 

He doesn’t know me.
He doesn’t know me.
He doesn’t know me.
 
(Repeat.)

Still, ouch.  Mean and vicious just for the sake of it.

It was so persistent and pervasive, making me pretty timid to post anything, anywhere, at all. (In fact, I still feel that hush of hesitation.) When I finally posted something that appeared virtually without response, it was a great and tremendous relief to me.  I felt like I had crafted a fragile paper airplane that somehow caught a small breeze instead of flying straight into gale forces it was never designed to withstand.

On the flip, I have encountered such kindnesses. Beautiful spring flowers in vase on home interior background Individuals who have moved long lines of people out of the way so my son could get through in his wheelchair.  People who have given us their seats or their parking spaces.  The surprises that have shown up on my front porch… meals, gift cards, bouquets of flowers, movie tickets.  The small group of children—and their teacher— who have claimed Tuck as their pen pal, sending him notes and drawing and little surprises.  People who have remembered Tyler in the mess of this summer, who know it is hard to be ‘the sibling’ of the one who requires so much focused attention. The family who has shared their two teenage sons—one to play Xbox with Tucker at our home, and the other to take Tyler swimming with the undivided attention of an older friend. 

Indeed, I have seen kindnesses.  These are quite literally rays of sunshine in the rain.

Here’s what I’ve learned: People can be mean when they can be anonymous. When they can look you in the eye and sign their name, kindness falls like new seeds on tender soil.

* * *

“Every crowd, sooner or later, will let you down.
The crowd contains a shoplifter,
or a heckler,
or an anonymous boor who leaves a snarky comment.
The crowd loses interest,
the crowd denigrates the work,
the crowd isn’t serious.
Worst of all, sometimes the crowd turns into a mob,
out of control and bloodthirsty.
But people,
people are real.
People will look you in the eye.
People will keep their promises.
People can grow, can change, can be generous.
When in doubt, ignore the crowd (and forgive them).
When possible, look for people instead.”

Seth Godin

* * *

Pain throws your heart to the ground;
Love turns the whole thing around.
No, it won’t all go the way it should,
But I know the heart of life is good.

~ John Mayer

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