Making Daily Choices For Kindness

February 21st, 2013

Do you ever feel like you’re living in the middle of Hunger Games; you know, like the world is a battle for survival with everyone out to protect their own at any cost?

Not everyone of course. You meet all sorts of people and situations. Some people shock me with kindness. The unforgiving nastiness of others makes my head hurt.

Joan of Arc said,

Every man gives his life for what he believes … one life is all we have to live and we live it according to what we believe.

I wish this were true. More often it seems that the way people act bears little relationship to what they say they believe. I’ve seen the same proportion of kindness and nastiness in churches as out of churches, and the same blend of generosity and territorialism inside positive inspiration circles as out. It makes me wonder what’s the point of so-called beliefs if you don’t see any fruits.

I guess the trick is to focus on the kindness, make sure I live my own life with integrity, and let the rest take care of itself.

I like the way Mary Oliver describes it,

Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.

Focus on the people and situations that more or less kill me with delight, even if kindness feels like a needle in a haystack of cruelty.

Recently I’ve been reading Hunger Games with my son. We’re half way through book two, and I’m pretty well riveted. If you don’t know the story, it centers around two kids, Katniss and Peeta, who are drawn in the lottery as Hunger Games’ contestants. They come from one of the outlying districts. Each district sends two kids into a battle to the death, all for the entertainment (and social control) of the oppressive Capitol.

The night before they head in to battle, Peeta tries to explain to Katniss how he wants to die, but he can’t quite find the words. Peeta says, “‘I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only… I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?’” It doesn’t make sense to Katniss, at least not yet. She wonders, “How could he die as anyone but himself?” Peeta explains: “‘I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some into some kind of monster that I’m not.… I keep wishing I could think of a way to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.’”

Eventually, Katniss “gets” it. She decides to do it on her own terms.

That’s the point. Live or die, but do it on your own terms, and let those terms be an expression of who you really are and not who you think others need you to be, or society tries to force you to be. I choose not to buy into the nastiness of anyone else. In so doing, no matter the outcome of the game called life, I can’t lose.

We crave heroes, the Peetas and Katnisses of the world, who model this sort of integrity in the heat of battle.

Maybe more to the point, we want to BE those people in the way we live our lives. And it IS in our control to make that choice. Most of us won’t do it in grand, public battles of life and death. It more often happens through small, even unnoticed acts of kindness. As David Foster Wallace said,

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

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  1. Barbara says:

    Thank you. What a inspiration. Thank you.

  2. Mantha says:

    This is just beautiful and a wonderful analogy. I think that if we could all just practice one act of kindness a day it would create a movement. 

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