We talk a lot about kindness in our house.
Just last night, my oldest son and I took bowls of taco soup upstairs to my office (also known as the music room and the guest room and the quiet room). Together, we sat on the couch, mostly in silence. We let ourselves calm down, because both of us hadn’t been our kindest selves, not to each other and not to the rest of the family.
After all, being part of a family means noticing when you’re not being kind, and then hopefully, actually doing something about it.
When peace and calm settled down in our bones, we didn’t move but we snuggled on the couch. I pulled out my laptop and opened the document with his name on it – after all, I’m not the only writer in the house. He too is a writer, determined to someday publish a book he’s writing on his current obsession, Ninjago.
So, we got to working together: his imagination flying, my fingers working to keep up with the likes of Sensei Wu, Kai and Cole. Ninjago, mind you, is not my favorite topic in the world, but if it’s important to my favorite seven-year old boy, then it’s important to me.
But then, we switched things up and returned to the topic of kindness. After all, sometimes kindness is action – when we snuggle on a couch, when we give others our undivided attention, when we create art together. But sometimes kindness is word, so we talk about what it means to be kind and compassionate, to show empathy and put other before ourselves.
“Hey buddy, let’s write a story about you, shall we?”
“Yeah, we’ll call it ‘How I am Me.'” As we got to working on the new piece, sometimes I prompted him with questions. Sometimes he told stories. Sometimes I interjected a paragraph of my own in order to be a voice of truth in his hear and remind him that he is kind and brave, good and strong.
When I asked him if he had a goal for the year, his response was simple: he wanted to be kind.
As we continued talking, my mind swirled with thoughts of kindness. Even though I believe in my core that we humans have been created in the image of goodness, too often I forget this truth and instead find myself looking at the world through darkened, distorted lens.
And as my friend Justin McRoberts writes in his new book, May It Be So, it’s almost as if I expect kindness, generosity and charity to be exceptions to the rule instead of the actual norm.
But what if that wasn’t the case? What if I believed that neighborliness was a fundamental human reality and that variations from it were tragic departures? What if a vision of the world made right was at the center of my psychology? How would I live differently? How would I love differently? Maybe I’d quit far less often than I do. Maybe I’d give weary travelers the opportunity to live into their better selves.
In his book, Justin guides the reader through the Lord’s Prayer, and in this particular passage, he reflects on the phrase, “On earth, as it is in heaven.” I suppose the invitation, whether we’re sitting on a couch in the upstairs bedroom or walking down the sidewalk of an urban neighborhood is the same: what if (on earth, just as it is in heaven), we expected kindness, both of ourselves and of our neighbors? How would this change the way we live and lean into and interact with the world around us?
With these thoughts in mind, I came full circle back to the boy sitting on the couch beside me. After all, he is loved and he is love, and in this love, he is kind.
So, as for me and my house, we’ll continue to circle conversation and action around kindness. But as for me, I’ll continue to lean into reconciled beliefs of neighborliness, remembering how kindness exists at the heart of everyone around me.
What is kindness to you? How are you learning to see the world differently, at beckoning invitations of kindness and generosity?
*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Go buy Justin’s book, y’all!