In Kindness

Today was one spent mostly in bed, trying to feel warm and keep my nose wiped, staving off aches with tea and soup. My good partner allowed me the space by tending to our boy who, by mid-afternoon, it was clear, was also sick. A(nother) day of rest at home was welcome, but also troubling, given all that is happening in the wide world.
I spent too much of the time I had my eyes open today looking at a screen, taking in the vastness of pain and suffering in our world and letting out tears. I felt so physically weak, so emotionally vulnerable. And who cares how I felt? I was unaware that an attack had happened in Beirut until my more globally-aware friends showed me on Facebook. I was self-disgusted because I didn't know, and because I did not feel immediate outrage when I heard the news of Paris. I felt grief and despair - all violence deeply disturbs me. But I mostly felt selfish annoyance at my many friends posting pictures of Eiffel Towers...because I saw myself in you.
Please don't misunderstand: I honor and appreciate the place of solidarity from which these outpourings come. That is a GOOD place, a place that connects people, that ushers justice, that makes peace. What bothers me? Your circle is too small. No matter who you are, your circle is to small. And so is mine.
I fail to realize most days how ignorant and sheltered I am. Collectively, we do not care enough about people we think are not like us. Thousands dead in Nigeria and there is barely a peep in the west. Millions of Syrian refugees fleeing from the same source of terror that, when it threatens a city we romanticize, suddenly becomes understandable in its horror...but until then, is not enough reason to make room at our inns for the families who have been threatened for months and months.
No need to look so far away. Why can't I be bolder with the truth that Black Lives Matter? Just like terror, systemic racism and white supremacy are real threats that kill real people every day. Just like terrorism, their complex roots, old and pervasive, must be acknowledged by white people for us to seek holistic solutions. Why do I struggle to find the words as a white person to call in others to look, to challenge my own, embedded racist tendencies, to change?
I fall short because I am tired. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed that taking care of my tiny circle is more than I can do. I try to be a good mother, partner, family member, friend, co-worker, community member...and I feel stretched even then. I know that these are essential works of justice and that I try to do my part, but it never feels like enough. I continue to fall into the mental, emotional, and spiritual traps that lead to disharmony and violence on a grander scale...and the cynical pitfall, "What can *I* even DO?"
As I laid in bed and cried, tucked away in comfort and cushions of care, I knew my self-judgment was not healthy or helpful. It does not serve us to say to ourselves or each other, "Our circles are too small." What helps is to say, and MEAN, "I am always trying to grow my circle of care...and I need your help." It helps, first, to be humble and to admit that work needs to be done...in us. It helps to invite each other in and hold each other accountable. It helps to make the most of where we are, who we are with, and what we are given. It helps to remind each other that it is ALL part of the bigger picture.
Yesterday was a Day of Kindness. That word, "kindness," often sounds trite or simplistic to my ears, sort of like "nice." We can be kind to someone without liking them...so I think it can be a wonderful first step. Our good acts should never depend on our subjective evaluation of another person's worthiness. Even if we struggle to feel for another, we can be kind. But that is not far enough. We also need courage. Coeur + large = courage. We need bigger and bigger hearts. We need kindness that comes when it is difficult to care, that transmutes to compassion - learning to suffer with others.
Such courageous compassion pushes against the edges of our awareness and expands our domain of attention. We begin to see people we didn't see before. The root of the word "kindness" articulates kinship, similarity. When our kindness begins to connect us more profoundly with people we did not even know we overlooked, it widens our circle of care. When our kindness helps to expand others' circles, it creates peace. "What can *I* even DO?" becomes, "What can WE do together?"
I need you to join me. Let's try to expand together. Let us mourn the victims in Paris, hold vigil in our hearts and homes, extend the love that is desperately needed...then, tomorrow, let's pay attention to the rest of the world. Let's never allow each other to overlook those killed across town or across the globe. Let's awaken our vigilance to our planetary kin. Is that too much to ask? Absolutely. Yes, there will always be too much to hold. That's why we hold it together. That's why you and I must stay courageously, radically open - to being challenged, corrected, consoled, and converted to greater compassion, and to do this for others with true kindness.
White people, call me in when I'm not being an ally. Friends of color, feel free to correct me when my view is narrow. Queer friends, let me know what I am missing. Tell me who I am forgetting to see or hear. Make me uncomfortable. Treat me kindly, but help me to love more courageously. Let me do this for you, too.
Tonight, Oak rested his head on my arm as we watched a video of Tracy Chapman perform "Imagine." Later, he proudly stacked the pictured structure that forcefully reminded me of the familiar landmark of a city in mourning. I never cease to wonder what he will dream and build in his life. Holding his vulnerable, sick body reminded me how vital it is to be gentle with ourselves and one another. Apathy or anger will not save us. Staying vulnerable and dependent on each other will. Judging the confines of my small space, my fragile body, my limited mind will only shrink them...but loving myself, and letting you see me and love me, too, will only help possibility to grow.
Rest well, my friends, and know tomorrow I begin again. I do not know if I will feel stronger on my own, but I want to be more connected. I know that, in itself, will strengthen me. Kindly, will you help me grow?