Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Laziness of Cruelty

Good news on the kitty front.  It now looks like a kitten and is even trying for a scamper or two.  Not strong enough to run, but it gives a great tail thrash.  Seeing this tiny creature now, and remembering what it looked like only a few days ago, makes me wonder at the sheer genius of Nature, and how quickly it can recover with only a few simple things: food, water, shelter and love.  Can you imagine what the world would be like if acts of kindness could spread as easily as disease?  If generosity and thoughtfulness were contagious?  In a way, they are.  We're all mammals, and mammalian instincts get us only so far.  Everything else is learned behavior.  I know that seeing somebody do something kind, even as simple as opening a door for somebody struggling with a package or baby stroller, makes me smile, even feel grateful.  I like proof, you know?  Proof that people are worth saving, so every random act of kindness reminds me of that fact.  I see it every day, too.  That's what's cool.  Overwhelmed by crap, panicking at super crap, rushing along on the tsunami of disasters and angst and financial worries and broken spirits, a small act of kindness can do so much.  It's like a super pill, a bright light in the day to day stress of living.  My beloved Marcus, who died in 2006, was a Marine in World War II.  He tells a story that reinforces the truth of how powerful kindness is.  On the island of Bougainville, in the South Pacific, Marcus was lying on a cot, wounded by grenade shrapnel and raging with dengue fever, unable to even sit up, when a Red Cross worker came up and offered him some dry paper to write home.  He was so grateful until the RC worker told him it was a dollar a sheet.  That'd be around twenty bucks or more today.  He told him to get the hell away.  The RC worker flounced away, pissed off.  Marcus laid there, shivering and miserable, and heard another voice say softly, "Hello, brother.  Would you like to write a letter home?  I have some paper."  Marcus snapped at him, saying he didn't have any money.  It was a Salvation Army worker.  The man seemed horrified that Marcus thought it would cost anything, and assured him that it was free, as much as he would like.  Suddenly shy, Marcus asked if he could write two letters, one to his mom and one to his wife.  So the Salvation Army man, seeing that Marcus was wounded as well as terribly ill, sat on the dirt floor of the tent and took dictation as Marcus composed the letters.  He mailed them, too, adding a post script to Marcus' letter, telling the wife and mother that he had seen their son/husband and what a brave, wonderful man he was.  Marcus never, ever forgot that.  With inhuman cruelty all around him during that terrible war, with enemy and comrade alike, himself included, Marcus never forgot that small act of humanity.  I think that cruelty is simply an act of laziness.  Kindness takes effort.  Wish me luck on making sure my own soul is buff when it comes to that.  If I exercise it every day, do some free weights of generosity and bench presses of philanthropy, I can make my tiny sphere of the world a better place, if only by a little bit.  Because kindness can go a long way.  That short twenty minutes of letter composing in the midst of war has lasted over sixty years and counting.  Bright versus dark.  Stars look like tiny pinpoints in the sky, but they're what makes us catch our breath, not all the darkness surrounding them.  Kindness is like that.  And for an insecurity addict like myself, I am always struggling to feel worthy of anything.  So I do something worthy every day.  Good luck to you all, and take care of yourself and those around you, bit by bit.  Let's turn kindness into a contagion that's desirable, that's popular.  Gandhi said that goodness always triumphs in the end over evil, and history has shown him correct.  Amidst all the darkness of humanity's crimes, there is a movement toward the light, a foothold on a slippery slope.  The pendulem has already begun to swing back, away from sarcasm and cruelty.  You can see it in the commercials on tv, even.  We're sick of meanness and greed, thoughtlessness and inaction.  People are moving, becoming brighter, lighting the way.  It's very, very cool.  It's possible to be fierce and kind at the same time. 


  1. These words made my eyes tear and my heart smile! Keep writing, Bex!

  2. You just did that to me. Love ya.