If only we truly got this and lived it. The things that divide us, the things we fear about each other that make us fight and protect ourselves, they’re in our heads.
How can we overcome fear with kindness, and break down some of the boundaries in our heads that divide and frighten us?
I just got back from 6 weeks traveling in Europe (hence the quiet blog) One of the clearest lessons I took from the trip is that people everywhere, no matter who you are, no matter the color of your skin or the sound of your tongue, and no matter what you’ve been through, we all suffer and we all struggle and we all want and need kindness; I mean the type of kindness that has no boundaries, like kindness from strangers who go out of their way to help you and want nothing in return.
I experienced kindness from so many strangers. A special shout out to the people of Portugal, who stood out for their friendliness and kindness. If we went into one store to ask for directions, the store owner would grab a map, go into the next store to double check and before long we had a whole community of 4 or 5 people helping us on our way. It was amazing to experience!
Something clicked for me while eating a meal in Barcelona, maybe a clue about the problem in America. We ate in a village square in the Gracia neighborhood. In the center of the square was a beautiful, ancient, ornate clock tower, as if watching over the whole community, marking time. When I asked how long we would wait for a table, the waiter said “ten minutes, one hour or three hours.” At first I was annoyed. I wanted an exact answer. But then I realized that not rushing was the priority. No one would be rushed. They would leave when they were finished. The same would be true for us IF we got a table.
Kids kicked their soccer balls against the clock tower. All around the square facing the clock tower were tables of people eating tapas and drinking sangria. In between the restaurants were benches full of older people, chatting and taking it all in. It was community in action. Three generations, all sorts of people, all enjoying the space, in clear view of each other. It was also chaos, with the occasional ball hitting tables and knocking over jugs of Sangria. But no one worried about that. No neighborhood watch here and no strangers.
We can’t all live in Village Squares. But we CAN all have a village square mindset, a communal consciousness. Unlock the gates to your heart so you can let it grow and expand to include more and fear less.
I love the words of Rudyard Kipling,
“All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!”