Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
—Naomi Shihab Nye
All of a sudden, the world is a different place. So many things we take for granted—going where and when we want to, health, community—can disappear in a moment. Whatever plans we may have had are gone. It’s only when things are taken from us that we realize how important and meaningful they are. Understanding the reason doesn’t make the transition easier.
The abruptness of the change makes us feel vulnerable. And so we do what we can to feel in control. We stockpile toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We rush to the library to have enough books and movies on hand to get us through the isolation period. We reschedule our events for a few weeks in the future.
But this forced isolation brings a few blessings. We have multiple opportunities to extend kindness and generosity to those most affected by this forced closure of society. We can cultivate patience and tolerance with those immediately around us. It provides a moment to decide what kind of society we truly want and how we can get there. How do we treat people and the environment? Is there a way that would have better outcomes for everyone? And are we willing to give up more to make that so?