Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

You’ve got to be kind.

on February 16, 2011

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

This is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, part of a baptismal speech.   

So, Valentine’s Day is about love, and blah blah blah, and hearts and flowers and candy and music.  It’s actually a day about stuff about love, isn’t it.  It’s not a day about being kind and generous and giving of yourself.  But, I’m not going to talk about the myriad problems I have with the celebration of Valentine’s Day as a concept or as a practice.  (I’m misanthropic in many ways, and Valentine’s Day brings many of them out in me…it’s not pretty, so we’ll be ignoring it.  Thank you very much) 

I want to talk about kindness, which is the manifestation of love, is it not?  Kindness to your dear ones is a manifestation of your very real love for them; kindness toward strangers is a manifestation of a love of humanity. 

This weekend, I found out that the woman who taught me to knit had died.  She was an extraordinarily kind woman.  We worked together on the night maintenance crew at a gym one summer.  Needless to say, we had some time to chat.  She spent the minutes between wiping down the machines or loading towels into the dryer correcting my wooly mistakes and telling me how I went wrong.  I saw her from time to time over the next few years, but I moved away, and I didn’t keep in touch.  It was a sad moment when I found out that she had passed away.  It brought me back to that summer and the frustration that gave way to fascination, which eventually gave way to obsession with knitting.  But it also brought me back to the laughter and fun that she shared with me. 

We all have friends and loved ones who go through hard times.  Sometimes, if someone is having a difficult time, the only things you can do are be available, be accepting, listen and say nice things.  It might not be enough to make anything right, but it’s the very least you have the capacity to do.  It’s not hard, it doesn’t cost you anything.  In fact, there’s an argument to be made that you’re gaining something, too. 

Love (the real thing, not the schmoopy droopy Valentiney thing) is easy to feel, but difficult, sometimes, to put into action.  My point, I suppose, is that Grand Gestures of love and adoration are nice, and sometimes necessary.  But, what people really need is the small stuff.  We need the listening, the forgiving, the patience, the time. 

Afterall, we only have, at the outside 100 years here.  God Damn it…we’ve got to be kind.

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