Published in the Rains County Leader on December 16, 2021:
Warning! This is not a typical light-hearted, feel-good column that will leave you with a smile. It is a full on rant against cruel and insensitive people whose words leave wounds that may never heal.
Kindness has become a sort of buzzword in recent years, although it is definitely not a new concept. The Apostle Paul told us in the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians that Love is kind, and one of the first verses I learned in Sunday School was Be ye kind one to another. It had a certain rhythm that made it easy for little minds to remember, even if they didn’t understand exactly what it meant.
The Oxford Language online dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate or as a kind act. Wikipedia explained it this way:
Kindness is a type of behavior marked by acts of generosity, consideration, or concern for others, without expecting praise or reward. Kindness is a topic of interest in philosophy and religion. Kindness was one of the main topics in the Bible.
According to a 2006 blog post on a site called Random Acts of Kindness, in 1982 a woman named Anne Herbert wrote “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat and set off a chain reaction that turned into the Random Acts of Kindness movement that has swept across the world. A random act of kindness is described by Wikipedia as a nonpremeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world. However, since Herbert first penned her memorable quote, these acts have become not only premeditated but also institutionalized and commercialized.
In 1993 Herbert published a children’s book titled Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty. Later that year, a college professor in California gave his students an assignment of performing a random act of kindness. This assignment sparked a flood of stories, and the concept spread quickly and widely. Since then people have paid tolls for those behind them, paid for the dinner of a stranger on the other side of the restaurant, and performed other acts of generosity without plan or forethought.
Before long, though, the randomness began to fade as websites were established that suggest ideas and calendars that offer ideas for daily acts of kindness. Non-profit organizations and for-profit vendors offer t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs, tote bags, stickers, posters, and more. In 1995 officials in Denver created the first Random Acts of Kindness Day, and Random Acts of Kindness Week began in 2018. In spite of efforts to organize or profit from the concept, it continues to spread and hopefully will carry on until the beauty of simple kindness changes all it touches.
Still, there is hard-hearted unkindness in the world, and Tennille, a dear friend, fell victim to it today. While shopping in Quitman, a man told her that “her kind” were not welcome there and that she needed to be what she was born as. I wish I had been there with her. I would have told him that what she is – a wonderful wife and mother. She is a loyal friend with a hilarious sense of humor and a joy for life like few I have ever known. She is brave beyond belief and in the last couple of years she has experienced a cancer diagnosis, a double mastectomy, radiation, and chemo. She survived all this with amazing courage and opted to forego the pain and expense of reconstructive surgery so she could get back to her life and the thriving cookie business she runs from her home – but it has not been easy. In her own words:
I’ve gotten used to occasionally being called “sir”. I knew my decision to not have reconstruction after surgery would come with some confusion. I try to dress girlie and wear clothing to make it obvious that I am, in fact, a girl.
Yes I look a little different. Trust me, I know. I see myself in the mirror every.single.day. And I’m trying very hard to come to terms and acceptance of my new “me”.
I say all this to say, be kind. You have no right judge someone based on appearance alone. We are ALL fighting battles you may never know about. Because trust me, a smile hides a lot.