Someone recently asked me, “What do you worry about?” I worry that we will forget to be kind.
At the end of his broadcast, Lester Holt urges, “take care of yourselves and each other.” Sometimes I hear it as “take care of eeee chuthur.” Sometimes I laugh. Then I realize that I worry about this exact thing. Mocking Lester Holt, a brilliant man whom I admire, for how he pronounces his blessings to us, is not kind. Does the hatred, anger, war and killing reported and repeated on TV stir up unkindness? Perhaps the inner heart closes as we watch. Closed inner hearts then go into the world and trigger outer unkindness. I worry about what and how we teach our children and grandchildren. When we so need to care for “eeee chuthur,” I worry that we learn unkindness simply by living in this culture.
Those fears grip me until I remember how teachers say friendliness can start within each of us (eee chuvus), that to learn to be kind to others, we must concurrently train in self-kindness.
Here’s what I mean. Years ago, I walked into a bookstore to “have my aura read.” Negative self-judgments exploded. “How stupid. I can’t tell anyone. What a hoax. How dumb to fall for this, to pay for this. This will show nothing. Or I’ll have a black aura which will reveal that I have a deadbeat spirit. Or maybe the aura photo will be blurry which would mean I live too confused for the aura-reading machine to detect even the slightest sign of enlightenment.” Ouch. Not kind to myself.
A young 20-something with purple hair and a sleeve of tattoos on both arms, one tattoo of Gandhi’s face, and another the universal “Om” image, bopped into the closet-like aura-reading chamber. My mind ranted, “What have I done? How can she possibly understand a 60-plus year-old woman?” Not kind to her.
The machine snapped, clicked, then printed a picture of my aura. “Beautiful,” the young woman smiled with her whole face, tender eyes and a gentle nod. The snapshot showed no black; it glistened with indigo, royal blue and other sweet colors. She continued, “You have loving qualities of heart. These colors prove you radiate personal warmth, and exude kindness.”
That word again: kindness. I settled, softened and stopped looking for my faults or hers.
She ended with, “You must see the good in you to see it in others.”
Oh, others. I admit I don’t always feel kindness for, or see kindness in, political leaders who, in the midst of a global pandemic won’t advocate for vaccines, who had refused to wear masks, who refute scientists, who yell at colleagues they call “friends” across the aisle. They act unkind; their followers pick up unkindness. I work on feeling kindness toward them. I do. Really. But it’s hard. I worry about that lack of kindness, theirs and mine. How can we survive as a people, as a nation, without kindness?
What if I start by inhaling my own beautiful light-filled aura? What if we start with self-compassion? Will that help us see the goodness in others rather than what seems to be dark badness in them?
I can’t stop gut-wrenching worry about our forgetting to be kind unless I start remembering to be kind. If we practice that inner and outer kindness, and pass it on, will our grandchildren defend kindness long into adulthood, as one of mine did when he was four years old, “Why can’t people be nice? Why would anyone be mean?”