Today may be a day in which romantic love is glorified more than usual, but I figured I’d extend the concept of ‘love’ to include its expression as kindness and understanding.
You don’t necessarily have to be part of a marginalized group to understand how cruel the world can be. In fact, it can be argued that we all start out in one such group: children.
Unless we faced abuse or neglect as children, we tend to focus on the carefree days and lack of responsibility childhood brought with it. However, everyone has faced casual cruelty as they grow up. It was worse if you had anything in your personality, history, or body that made you stand out in any way.
That willful amnesia may help us cope with certain aspects of our lives, but it’s still important to remember how it feels to be powerless. If you can remember how that feels, it’s not a huge step to recall it when hate or bullying is played out in front of you.
Although my dyslexia contributed towards some of the rougher aspects of growing up, my family breaking up, all of the unhealthy family dynamics involved with that, bullying, and frequent moves up until the middle of first grade had a greater impact on how I handled challenges thrown my way.
Despite how screwed up I was in my head and heart, when anyone showed me kindness during those years, it had a profound effect. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was able to properly demonstrate my gratitude in those days.
From the teacher who told me my smile lit up the room, to the Tarot card reader at the birthday party I had been pity-invited to who gave me the hug I desperately needed, to my poor siblings who loved me through it all, each and every one of them demonstrated just how powerful a tiny bit of kindness can be to someone who’s fighting for survival.
I still carry both the memory of that pain I’d experienced then and the salvation those people and more offered with me. It helps me understand how others feel in similar situations today.
I think that idea gets lost.
Too many people get lost in their prejudices, as evidenced by the xenophobic backlash to that Coca Cola commercial during the Superbowl this year, homophobic policies, and countless examples of ableism all over the world. They then wonder why these populations get angry and why they end up experiencing backlash.
This is where kindness and understanding needs to come in.
We don’t know what that screaming child is going through. SPD is invisible. Instead of giving the caretaker a harder time than they’re no doubt already having, at the very least leave them alone.
If someone doesn’t speak English in a country where the majority of people speak it, understand that it’s an extremely difficult language to learn. In terms of the USA, unless the entirety of your family is from England, odds are at least one of your ancestors faced the exact same challenge. If you need to communicate with them, at least try to have patience.
When it comes to romantic relationships, so long as no one’s getting hurt, why should you care what anyone else does? If your religion or prejudices don’t agree with what someone else is doing, why not take a deeper look at why that is? At the very least, you’ll hopefully learn something about yourself.
And, for heaven’s sake, if you see someone suffering, don’t make it worse. If you can spare a moment, at least ask if there’s something you can do to help. You might be surprised at how much that simple question can improve a person’s day.
If you notice someone bullying another, or various -isms in action, try standing up for the person being targeted. If the situation is dangerous, call the authorities. Few things are more frightening when you’re alone, facing a threat, and no one else is willing to help.
This Valentine’s Day, let’s see if we can remember a moment when someone else’s kindness made your life a little better and spread that feeling on to others.
Love comes in more forms and intensities than romance, after all. It’s about time we spread it around.