By Sara Striefel
A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make trees. ~ Amelia Erhardt.
Amid all the uncertainty, loss, and heartbreak of the past year, there remained one thing that managed to consistently renew my spirits and restore my faith. One thing, when examples of it graced my newsfeed, gave me reason to hope. When fires raged and hospitals filled up, one thing shone a light straight through the darkness and took my breath away. That one thing was human kindness.
In many ways the pandemic has produced a unique display of human kindness. Even as fear reared its ugly head and bared its fangs for all to see, human beings continued to show up for one another. Nurses worked beyond their limits and risked their lives to care for the sick. Mothers stepped in and collected food for their neighbors and educated each other’s children. Citizens sang to one another from balconies and windowsills to fill the quiet, empty streets in Rome. In the midst of justified rage, we still carried the wounded to the sidewalk and gave them water. We stood up for the disenfranchised. We voted for decency.
This is what takes my breath away, time and time again. Examples of love and fellowship. The recognition of another human spirit, despite differences in age, color, or creed. Children who chalked the driveway with encouraging messages for the delivery drivers. Drive-by birthday celebrations, and impromptu, socially distanced, dance parties in the rain. I am speechless when I learn that a small Christian church opened its doors to the displaced members of a local mosque so that they could pray on their holy holiday. The air will literally catch in my throat. Evidence that we are still worth saving, that love wins, that people are good. Proof that we can recognize one another’s humanity and reach across divides. My children have found me in tears, in awe of the human capacity for empathy, the profound beauty of loving kindness.
Hope, it would seem, exists in the subtle and humble actions of the kindhearted. Violence screams most loudly, but when we stop listening for the dramatic, attention-seeking fire display, we become open to the soft sound of people lifting each other up. The gentle murmur of encouragement, of hands reaching out and hearts leaning in. When everything shut down, and we stopped incessantly buzzing, the planet breathed a huge sigh of relief. Animals got adopted in record numbers. People went outside! Museums and theaters virtually opened their doors to us. Free concerts, art classes, and book subscriptions. All the beauty in these simple acts of kindness grew into a forest that fed me, pulled me up, and gave me breath. Even as it simultaneously took my breath away.
Sara is a poet and non-fiction writer living her best life in the mountains of Colorado. In her day job she advocates for women as a passionate OBGYN nurse, but she also identifies as the Mother of Heathens, a Tough Mudder warrior, a painter, a flower child, a chef, a scuba diver, a nature lover, an adventurer, and a gorgeously flawed sober goddess. She believes that women are made of starlight and grit and has found purpose in helping her fellow sisters shine.