Quilting Stories of Random Acts of Kindness

Jun 19, 2020 | In the world

The Weighing 
Jane Hirshfield
So few grains of happiness
Measured against all the dark
And still the scales balance
The world asks of us
Only the strength we have and we give it
Then it asks more, and we give it
In the past few weeks, I was distressed by the news streaming in from America. As a reader and observer, I was disturbed by the explosion of divisive narratives. As a writer, I was aghast at the careless disregard of one of the foremost rules of good writing – sparing use of adjectives and adverbs.
From the excessive and oftentimes unnecessary use of specific words to denote race, every sentence was framed within a narrative context that made me turn away from the subject, regardless of its urgency.
If, as E.M. Forster said, the goal was to “Just Connect,” what I was reading on a daily basis was certainly not doing that.
For seven days, I posted vignettes of my life in the US where I had been at the receiving end of random acts of kindness and generosity that filled me with hope and gratitude. These were my personal encounters with people who were, like me, fellow human beings. Regardless of whether we engaged in a fleeting moment, or a long lasting relationship, the memorable aspect was the magnitude of kindness encapsulated in each interaction.
Once I wrote the first story many more incidents buried deep within my memory banks came to the forefront.
I wrote for two reasons:
1. As a challenge myself to write about people without mentioning race, ethnicity, country of origin, or other outwardly visible (or audible) markers of difference. Given my own minority status in the US three decades ago, all the people I wrote about came from various parts of the world, were older (or younger) than me, and brought with them their own biases, prejudices, and ignorance, just as I did. But our exchange was pure, untouched by any particular agenda. I wrote to remind myself.
2. I also wrote to see how readers responded to my words. Would they think back to their own experiences – both as recipients or donors in similar light and joyous interactions?
I received comments on social media and personal messages where many confessed that as they read my posts, it reminded them of their own experiences. It reassured me that the saying “If you go looking for something, you will find it,” is true.
In the last few days, I have received a video forward of a young woman in the UK who crochets colorful little flowers and leaves them in random places with a note for the finder, a small ray of sunshine for whoever needs it. I read a Facebook post from a person who is collecting audio recordings of lullabies from different countries, sung in different languages, as a repository of comfort.
I came across a new book by science writer Marta Zaraska, “Growing Young – How friendship, optimism and kindness can help you live till 100” who has shown through research, interviews and her own travels that community and connection can be powerful tools for a long life.
Here’s something I want to propose. If you have similar stories, in America, or elsewhere, please email me, or respond to this post. If you would like me to tell your story, I would be happy to do so.
In any case, stay tuned for more such stories. If you don’t want to miss any posts, do sign up for my newsletter.

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