Rippling forward

On kindness, reflection, and wild wishes

These past months, I have been listening to “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye. The poem brings me back to many events that changed the way I perceived the world. It was transformational in retrospect and kindness becomes the only story that I want to listen to and bounce back with when facing challenges.

I want to be kind, because I have luckily received kindness from others. That conscious desire has guided many of my thoughts and choices for the past years. Yet, more than often, kindness seems like the hardest quality to cultivate. There are no universal guidelines to conveniently follow. Kindness requires knowledge, compassion, and consistency. It feels personal. It is understood and felt differently by people. And sometimes, what kindness is seems a region of grayness.

Kindness leads me to self-questioning, along with awareness. Moments of internal conflict, but growth. More nuanced thoughts, but a straightforward understanding of life’s meaning through the raw simplicity of what truly matters.

Throughout that journey, kindness became something that helped me make sense of life. Now, I see kindness under different forms.

One word. A door knock. Photographs. Stories.

That shoulder pat. Someone’s cooking. A “Yes” reply. “How are you?” “I am so sorry to hear that.”

Or the way someone smiles.

I am here, with my brother teaching me to relearn about the world through the beautiful eyes of children. He helps me understand who I could be with a simple but passionate heart. Thanks to him, my life is not only a process of learning, but also unlearning all that has broken us, made us cynical and unkind. His presence changed my life. I want to make the world a better place — for him first.

Because my family has given me all that they have never had. I am humble for all the opportunities I have, and I am giving myself the responsibility, among many, to pay it back to the world because I am grateful to them.

Because they are my mentors, leaders, and role models. I look up to them after seeing the way they choose to be a part of this world. Whether as writers, social workers, researchers, tech people, artists, scientists, teachers or others or all. How they want to make the world better and refuse to stay still, how they move fast and fail forwards, how they bring the best of themselves to everything and always look out for others, because they believe in something bigger and more enduring than themselves. They inspire me to be free, but be grounded, but be true. The way they navigate life and treat those around them is silent, but it speaks. I also hope to make a difference in someone’s life in that way.

Because my friends have remembered me in ways I don’t remember myself and liked me through all the identities that make me a whole person. Friendship is under-appreciated, yet surreal. Invisible, but steady and rewarding if we make an effort. Friendship comes and returns to me at unexpected moments to help me be better, be kind.

And finally, because of people who I have never met or may just know by name — those who are contributing to this world in their own quiet yet powerful way. I long for learning your stories.

Somewhere on earth, a droplet of liquid is saving someone’s life, a home visit from a stranger is giving hope to a pregnant mom who couldn’t travel to a health clinic, and all by themselves, a person is waking up at dawn, biking on dusty roads for hours to get those tablets that many need, even if the compensation is too small to make the actions comprehensible.

I am waiting for that one day when our culture will allow us room to breathe, so we can be equally amazed by the smallest, most silent act of goodness. That kindness impresses as much as money and power do. That good actions don’t need to be known; they are contagious with a rippling effect. I am waiting for the world to be carried away by a childlike smile and sacrifices without voices from the farthest corners of the earth where pain happens but courage perseveres. I am waiting for us to beam under these rays of light and self-remind that good things are already happening, and more will — when we relentlessly work for them.

I am deeply humbled and troubled by so much humane work that goes unknown, unappreciated and undocumented. Yet, I believe that love is real; it triggers power. At this very second, the seemingly smallest action of hope that puts us all in solidarity — it is happening.