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Goodbye 2017: A Writer Looks Backward and Forward at Kindness

For a lot of us, 2017 felt like a hard year. Our world feels uncertain. Our future uneasy. Our security in question. There has been upheaval on multiple fronts. Change is never easy, either to accept or to promote. When we are in the midst of it, it can feel as if forward motion has stopped, but history shows we progress. Slowly, but surely, we progress. With a little faith, a little strength, a voice, a movement.

We lost some legends in 2017. The music world lost Tom Petty, Greg Allman, and Walter Beck. AC/DC lost Malcom Young. Rock ‘n Roll lost Fats Domino. Hollywood lost Harry Dean Stanton, Rose Marie, and Mary Tyler Moore. Robert Guillaume. Jim Nabors. Hollywood shared its loss of Sam Shepard with the theater, as an actor and a playwright who graced both screen and stage. Literature lost Gloria Naylor, Robert James Waller, and most recently Sue Grafton.

There are more, people who will never share their talent, their passion, their craft with the world ever again, except through the CDs, the films, the books they leave behind.

We can rejoice in the bodies of work they created or we can mourn their passing. We can agonize over the music and stories that will never be or we can take what they have shown us and make our own work better.

One of the complexities about our love for individuals based on their ability with a craft, is we don’t know what else they brought to the world. Did they love without reservation? Did they rescue an animal? Did they respect nature? Did they care for someone less fortunate? Can you separate the person from the art? Should you? Does it matter, after their death, what else made up their core? Were they kind?

There is little we can control in this life. We can’t force stardom or recognition or awards. We can’t determine how successful we will be. We can’t change the nature of another. We can’t cheat death. But we can choose kindness.

I have found myself, day after day, returning to the same idea. Kindness requires nothing. It does not require you to change your belief system or the party you vote for or the religion you follow. It doesn’t require that you accept people who are different or participate in something you don’t believe in. You can still be kind. All it requires is thoughtfulness for another person’s struggle. Their struggle, no matter how foreign it may be to you, is real to them.

I guess if I have one hope for the new year, it’s the same hope I have every year. That we can all take an extra second before we react and consider how our words will be heard. Take that extra moment to confirm the story we are passing on is true. That we can choose to be kind in how we approach others, no matter how they approach us.

Rise above.

As Michelle Obama said, “when they go low, we go high.”

When someone is cruel, be kind. When someone is hurtful, be kind. When someone acts out of fear, greed, anger, be kind.

Baffle the other person by rising above.

Wishing all of you health, peace, and a steadiness of heart in the coming year.

There is no us and them, that’s a lie we tell ourselves to give us distance. We may not like it, but there is only one us. And we’re all in this thing together.

Elena-

 

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