Are we innately driven to be kind? Or do we have to work at it?
Is kindness linked to some greater purpose or is it just another goal.
Why am I so obsessed with it?
Where did it come from?
My parents are certainly kind. My mom was a nurse, not just in profession but in her heart. She is almost too helpful. My dad checks in on everyone he passes, especially the guy sweeping the floor. How you doing, brother? After all, that was his dad: the janitor everyone passed.
I didn’t see much kindness in my grandpa but I think he was just sick of kids by the time I came around. And he grew up unfree. To be black in the 19th century. How does kindness survive that?
Some of my great aunts were the sweetest people I’ve ever known. They even got nicknames for it. Kindness found a way.
And further back… Great Great Grampa Percy, you ambitious lot! Sharing an office with Frederick Douglas! Daring to be smart, educated, and black during Reconstruction. You fled DC for some reason, and it probably wasn’t kindness.
What about the other side; the White side? Grampa Vic was always fixing things for people. And doing it for nothing. If I even mentioned something was broken, I’d come home from school and it’d be fixed. He didn’t love me with words; he loved me with his screwdriver. And a litany of pancake breakfasts.
Let’s go back a bit further…
Trailblazers with Viking blood crossing the sea. Constant struggle. Building their own houses, losing people to the elements. Working the land. Heavy hands, calloused fingers.
But that’s nothing compared with the stinging pain and transgenerational cruelty of the whip.
Great Great Great Great Grampa Chief Tecumpseh, the articulate, optimistic diplomat who had the outlandish idea that he could unify the tribes. A consensus-builder, a revolutionary, against all odds.
He represents the best part of my heritage, which is no one part, but rather all the parts: the mixing.
Tribes with Tribes.
Natives with non-natives.
Confederates with Yanks.
Black with White.
Immigrants with non-immigrants.
What can I say? I was born to blend. Programmed to unify.
The blood of my rivals mixes in my own veins. It stirs like a storm. It burns from conflict and cools with tenderness.
You see, I am kind by design, by necessity. And for this I am grateful.
If I’m to be who I am, to honor my heritage and those that made me, well, then I must love. And love hard in all directions.
The lesson is in my bones. The story is in my roots.
Like an oak reaching toward the sun, I wake up to the same task.
My work is clear.