I’m embarking on a new adventure: to intentionally incorporate one simple act of kindness into each day for one year. My certainty that kindness can change the world feels a little like throwing a glass ball into the ocean and believing it won’t break.
You can call this series: 365 Reasons to Roll Your Eyes, but science says your own happiness will increase if you share the journey.
“This one appeared to me
in a dream…”
What a spring to discover one unexpected aspect of this Year of Kindness: It’s impossible to walk through the world without intent attentiveness: To my family. My friends. To the check-out guy at Trader Joes who thanked me for pointing out what a glorious day it was when he said he woke up feeling cynical and sad with the the world. And to the sky flood of bright orange painted lady butterflies which one incredible March day streamed past me in an endless field of poppies while I stood open-armed, smiling in the midst of their silent migration, which by some estimates numbered in the millions.
I lived through the Trabuco Canyon drought, the brown days and orange fires. And just like that, with a little respite in the form of plentiful rain, I walk through a wonderland this spring learning to name the flowers. Wild hyacinth. Whispering bells. Mariposa Lilly. Lupine.
Super Bloom expands for miles in such unimaginable scope it’s impossible to photograph the sweeping hillsides in a way that translates their wonder. So I focus close. One kind act. A blooming purple wild chia. One golden poppy stem.
A gray grasshopper on my back deck.
The grasshopper reminds me of the opening lines of Lawson Fusao Inada’s poem, “This One, That One.”
This one appeared to me
in a dream, was forgotten,
only to reveal itself
on the shower wall
It must have been the water.
That one was on the full moon
last night, clear as a bell.
Someone projected it there.
Something about the ordinariness of the gray grasshopper, especially in this extraordinarily colorful spring makes me wonder, how do you draw the line between the sacredness of this thing or that? Between this person or that one?
One living grasshopper (Schistocerca nitens) pauses on a now-dead hewn piece of ironwood (Tabebuia ipê) sawed into lumber planks for a deck. Both are listed in the Catalogue of Life, “the most comprehensive and authoritative global index of species… essential information on the names, relationships and distributions of over 1.6 million species…compiled from diverse sources around the world.” There are no borders in the Catalogue of Life .
This gray bird grasshopper, also known as a vagrant grasshopper, can be found in most of the Southwest US, Hawaii, and parts of Central America. The ipê is indigenous to many countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. Yet both ended up in my backyard where there appears to be plenty of room. My backyard isn’t full.
How do we name the edge, the border between this thing and that, when nature herself has no walls?
That one speaks to me
of space, and negative space,
of open and filled spaces,
and the among
that comes between.
This year I’m dwelling in the “open and filled spaces, and the among that comes between.” My #KindInKind acts have taken a deeper turn from bread baking and letter writing, although to date I’ve delivered more than a dozen loaves accompanied by time for conversation and I’ve sent almost 20 hand-written notes. I’m delving into things that keep us humans from being kind; I’m studying with those who work toward commonality rather than exploiting differences.
Last week I attended one of a series of community forums sponsored by the Orange County Interfaith Network, a group whose mission is to “present united faith-based responses to social justice issues, while encouraging respect, civility and the common good.” The theme of the forum was “The more you know, the less you fear.” University students representing eight different spiritual traditions – Eclectic Pagan, Roman Catholic, Interfaith, Muslim, Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Conservative Judaism, Agnostic, and Bahá’í – shared spiritual experience narratives and created space for dialogue with dozens of community members.
Caroline Kutschbach, President of the Chapman University Religious Honors Society, articulated what could have been a summation of the evening. “It’s my goal to teach people to be more understanding of one another. You may see me as your ‘other,’ but I see an ‘I’ in all of us. All faith trails can lead us to the same peak.”
I’ve walked up many peaks this spring but not on the only trail. I may not have a traditional faith practice, but I came away from that evening with incredible faith in our future, in the way some young people face differences with curiosity, respect, open hearts and open minds, consciously trying to find common ground with one another rather than building walls. We are living proof that it’s possible to embody kindness in the same spirit the Dalai Lama, expresses in his Policy of Kindness.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
If you’re inspired to consider why it’s kind work, urgent work, to question boundaries and edges, read the entire poem that my grasshopper find called to mind.
“This One, That One” comes from Lawson Fusao Inada’s book, Drawing the Line, about his experience from ages four to seven in an internment camp. He was one of the youngest Japanese Americans forced to relocate during WWII after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February, 1942. The order mandated immediate incarceration of all Americans of Japanese ancestry, roughly 120,000 humans, the majority of which were American citizens.
Inada’s poem, his book, questioning the human edge between this one and that one seems especially right for exploring what kindness must mean in America these days and why it feels like the most important practice to focus on this year.
Here’s to trying to lose our rough edge through kindness.