Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A month of gifts: The Gift of Kindness

This month, I’ve joined Rhonda Parrish’s Giftmas Blog tour, which you will note in the Rafflecopter sidebar gives you the chance to win some awesome prize packs. You most definitely want to check that out. I wanted to do more, though, and try to get myself in a seasonal mood. So for the month of December, I’m going to be blogging about gifts: not the stick-a-bow-on-it kind, but the sort of gifts that may get overlooked in the rush to add to the pile under the tree.

On this first day of the project, the gift I’m pondering is kindness.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what sort of legacy I’d like to leave behind, as a writer and as a person. (Don’t worry—I’m not planning on checking out any time soon. But as a friend of mine says, we artistic types tend to obsess over mortality. There’s never enough time to tell the stories we need to tell and create the art that’s haunting us.) And as I’ve watched communities erupt time and again this year, into rage and hurt and vitriol, I came to a decision: I want to be known for kindness.

This doesn’t mean that I lack strong convictions, though I will admit that my ideas about life and its rules are constantly evolving, maybe more so in the past couple years than at any other time in my existence. I have opinions. Lots of them. But I don’t necessarily think anyone else needs to know them, and it often takes me a good long while to feel I can trust others enough to share those deep convictions.

And I’m not saying other people shouldn’t speak out. There are as many important reasons to raise a voice as there are wise folks with things to say. For now, at least, my ears need to be more important than my tongue. My heart needs to be more open than my mouth.

I’m learning the value of listening. There are so many marginalized voices in the world, so many people who are rightfully angry because they’ve spent their lives trying to make themselves heard in the clamor. And I’ve learned so much, just listening and bearing witness to their struggles. While I can’t make the world a fair place, nor take anyone’s pain away, I can do my best to hear.

And I can be kind. Maybe it’s not deep to post a video of a squirrel trying to hide its nut stash in the thick fur of a very patient dog. Maybe it’s not going to change the power structure of the world if I tell you what funny thing the Plague of the Last-Born said this morning, or to acknowledge your losses and tell you I sympathize. It certainly won’t make me more famous or successful.  I’ll be honest, that right there is a dream I’ve spent way too much time and energy chasing in the past couple decades. Part of kindness means letting go of the death-clutch I’ve had on certain hopes and expectations, to make room for better ones.

It’s time for a shift in focus. If I can make you laugh, if I can tell you I hear you when you’re hurt, if I can create a place where you can feel safe for a little while, that’s a good enough legacy. I’ll do my best to give the gift of kindness.


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  2. Jen, you are one of the dearest, kindest people I know. Thank you for your years of friendship. Here's to many more. <3