3 min read

What is kindness? Grandma's Hands.

What is kindness? Grandma's Hands.

Grandma's hands clapped in church on sunday morning -
Grandma's hands played the tamborine so well.
Grandma's hands used to issue out a warning -
She'd say, "Billy don't you run so fast -
Might fall on a piece of glass -
Might be snakes there in that grass -
Grandma's hands.

Grandma's hands soothed the local unwed mother -
Grandma's hands used to ache sometimes and swell.
Grandma's hands used to lift her face and tell her -
She'd say "baby, grandma understands,
That you really love that man.
Put yourself in Jesus' hands."
Grandma's hands.

Grandma's hands used to hand me a piece of candy -
Grandma's hands picked me up, each time I fell.
Grandma's hands, boy they really came in handy -
She'd say, "Matthew, don't you whip that boy.
What you spank him for?
He ain't drop no apple core."
But I don't have grandma anymore.
When I get to heaven I'll look for -
Grandma's hands.

-Bill Withers, Grandma's Hands

What is kindness?

Kindness isn't mania.
It is not our need to "make" others happy or fix the world.

Kindness is empty.

It is the ability to grieve with the grieving.
And to celebrate with the celebrating.
Because, behind it, there is nothing.

There is no need for approval, a flawless world, or others to appear happy.

Just emptiness.
A readiness, for yourself and others, as they are, where they are - now.

We tend to fall into 2 groups on kindness. [1]

For some, kindness is great sacrifice. It is self immolation. It is "watch me bleed for you." It is, "I will walk through this fire, but DON'T. YOU. BLINK!" (Shout out to immigrant parents.)

Those of us whose brains are wired more towards melancholy are prone to ideas of kindness as an odyssey where we are the hero, bestowing what little we have unto a cruel world.

This is ego. It's fine. But just ego.

It is a way of expressing "this is what I need." It is not ready to give freely, because it is starving. It needs its own soothing. It needs its own peace.

It gives with intention to get. With intention to be.
But not with the intention to give.

It is not ready.
But it's trying.

And then there are those of us whose brains are wired towards "positivity." We see kindness as fun! Wiz! Bang! Smile! "You're doing great! I'm great! How are you?! Isn't everyone just great?! Wow! What a great broken arm you have! Hahaha!" (Shout out to American parents.)

While I'd much rather be in this camp than the other, this is still ego. It is an unwillingness to interact with a world as it is. To accept ugliness and misfortune. To say, "yeah, today was rough." "I know you tried and failed." "I know that hurts." "I miss her too."

It is not recognizing that there is nothing positive about positive emotions.
And there's nothing negative about negative emotions.
They are just emotions, come and go.

Kindness isn't an emotion.
It is emptiness available.
To yourself and to others.
It is readiness to hug and remain completely silent.
And to scream and to celebrate.
Because it is empty. It does not need to preserve itself or force a world view. It is merely there, empty.

I will try and fail to give it.
And that will be fine. Because only that can be truly kind.

Grandma's hands.

  1. I write with the intention to share and to express. Sometimes, this benefits from generalization.

    I have a degree in philosophy. I could cover every nuance, fend off every rebuttal. But you wouldn't read it. And neither would I.

    I don't write to convince. If my writing lands with you, I am glad. If it doesn't, I hope it finds home elsewhere. If it challenges you, let me know how. These ideas didn't start with me. They won't end with me. Let me know what they stir in you and I'll do my best to show up and fill in the blanks. ↩︎

P.S. If you enjoyed this, be kind and share this with 1 other person you think will as well.

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