What are we doing putting children in cages? What are we doing destroying rivers and trees, animals and soil? What we are doing to each other?
The word “kindness” is related to the word “kin.” We are more easily kind when we feel a sense of connection. The false notion that we humans are separate and discrete beings kills kindness, cleaving us from the web of life. We are all related, part of one interdependent Earth community, only we can so quickly forget.
I have just returned from London where I have been arranging for long-term carers for my 90-year-old mother who recently fell down a flight of stairs. She has fallen a lot lately, and it’s clear that living alone is no longer safe.
Mum’s latest fall landed her in hospital. The National Health Service was wonderful, following up with her when she was finally sent home. NHS helpers came to help Mum dress, take her for walks, chat with her. They were all amazingly kind– the kind of “kind” that fills you with hope for humanity. They soothed her wounds, rubbed creams into her bruised legs, made her laugh.
Their warmth and help offered me much needed breaks. I am not, it turns out, a natural carer. I felt caged by responsibility, and many of the tasks that fall to a carer–cooking, cleaning, listening to the same stories many times over, do not come easily to me. There was a lot of roll-up-your-sleeves and clear-out-decades-of-clutter work to be done. I missed my peaceful mornings, my husband, my writing time.
Truth is, at moments my own unmet desires felt overwhelming. I had been in London in March to put on a 90th birthday party for Mum. Then I was back again for over two weeks at the beginning of May–a stressful time when Mum’s vulnerabilities were becoming clearer. I missed so much not having my older brother David around. He died five years ago leaving me as the only child. Now here I was in June, feeling as if I had no grip on my own life.
But I did what was mine to do. I took care of Mum, because she is my mother. My kin. And what I discovered is this: the kinder I was, the more love I felt.
I don’t believe kindness is always simple. Nor is it always convenient. And yet, as the poet Naomi Shihab Nye writes, it is the “tender gravity” of kindness that holds our world together.
In a strange way, it was my mother’s fall that pulled me back into my heart. What in this falling apart world is pulling you back into yours?