Be kind: a familiar phrase that was spoken over me daily as a child. The words carried significance. They seemed to be the solution to whatever problems or struggles I may potentially face throughout the day. It was as if my parents were arming me with a metaphysical weapon possessing the capacity to fight my naturally selfish inclinations. The mere repetition of the phrase, from the superiors that fed me, implanted a constant awareness of my actions and attitudes in relation to this command to be kind. In no way did I reflect this command perfectly as a young boy who was in a never-ending competition to prove himself to his older brothers and his classmates. Nevertheless, the command was always on my heart. Whether it was playing sports, doing class work or seeking social attention, this command always seemed to be the moral compass trying to surface through the muck of a young child’s myopic nature.
I recall a specific event from fourth grade. A new girl came into our class who had undergone a stroke as an infant. As a result, she had a limp, talked differently and struggled in social settings. My friends and I were playing video games and she wanted to join. I could tell that my friends were not keen on allowing her to interrupt our games. The voice of my mother emerged like a megaphone. I gave her my spot and watched her play with my friends. This little event seemed trivial to me. Eight years later, after graduating from High School I had a little party at my house. This girl pulled me aside and told me that she remembered me doing this and it allowed her to feel welcome in our class. This recognition, eight years later, affirmed the value of the command I had heard thousands of times.
This command can often be taken lightly. As a child, I did not have the intuition to comprehend what kindness actually entailed. For many people, myself included, I equated being kind to being nice. We use them inseparably as if kindness and niceness are identical twins. After further examination of the words, I have found they possess very distinct meanings. To be nice means to be pleasant, pleasing or agreeable. To be nice is not a bad command but it does not hold the same weight as the command to be kind. Kindness comes from the root word kindred. Kindred is a word used to describe a person’s relatives or kinfolk. Thus, at the root of the command to be kind is a command of inclusion into one’s family. When my mother proclaimed that I ought to be kind she was proclaiming that I ought to welcome and treat those around me with such love that they would feel included in the closest knit community I was apart of; my family. I believe the distinction is important in our culture today. We need to make our aim, as humans, to be kind not merely nice. Anyone may possess the skills to be pleasant around a different race or gender, but it takes an extreme love and devotion to justice to be kind. So let’s end the shit show of separation and become a unified family who celebrate differences rather than exploiting them. True kindness is a solution, a weapon, to fight against discrimination, racism and hate. So listen to my mom, she is pretty much a badass human who knows what’s best for our hurting world.