A note on kindness: putting things into perspective
Wednesday’s terror attacks on a synagogue in Halle, Germany are yet another gruesome reminder of the world we live in. That is, a world filled with hate. The attack took place on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is a time for atonement, a day during which many people belonging to the Jewish faith fast and spend hours in synagogue, trying to repent. I was raised Jewish and identify as such; even though I do not fast and I rarely attend services, this horrible event is one that struck me because it was live-streamed.
I cannot fully comprehend the evil one must possess in order to carry out such a vile act, and not only that, but to feel the need to show the world what they are doing. And it’s not like nobody watched it; according to CNN, around 2,200 people tuned in. That’s around 100 times more people than were in my high school. To think that that this number of people is just a small fraction of the anti-Semitism that exists in our world is unfathomable to me. This week should have been one filled with kindness. World Mental Health Day was Thursday and National Coming Out Day was Friday. Both are days in which the world should have an excess of kindness, but attacks like the one in Halle overshadow this and unfortunately showcase the evil humanity is capable of. Kindness nowadays is as easy as sharing a post, just to let your peers know you support them. You can merely send an animation of yourself to let someone know you care. Yet everyday we are faced with situations and people that remind us that not everyone wants to be kind. I am a firm believer that everyone can be kind, that everyone possesses the ability to be kind. However, it is the people who consistently do not want to be kind that pose a problem. Sometimes, as in Halle, this is taken to the extreme, and goes far beyond a lack of kindness.
I was recently struck with a life-altering event. My father was diagnosed with brain cancer. Ah yes, the dreaded c-word. In the fortnight since we found out, I have received an outpouring of support from friends, family members, professors and everyone in between. I have seen countless “I’m sorry” messages, countless emails, texts and even received an official correspondence from the University. While I appreciate everything immensely, I have realized something. There is a difference between spoken kindness and conscious kindness. Everyone says “I’m sorry” or “let me know if you need anything” as a reflex, something that society has ingrained that we must do when confronted with information like this.
Conscious kindness, however, is more meaningful. For example, my uncle offered to pick me up from the airport while my mom was at home taking care of my dad. When faced with these types of situations, we often do not know how to utilize our conscious kindness and actually help. I mean, what do you say when your close friend runs up to you crying uncontrollably at dinner, saying her dad has a brain tumor? When the situation is much closer to you, people are less sure of how to act because of that. It’s easy to send a tweet with the hashtag #PrayforHalle (or whichever city it is, since these shootings have sadly become more and more common), but how do you offer real support to someone when you can’t even begin to understand their situation? This is not at all to dismiss the outpouring of support following tragedies; I think they are wonderful. The only way to combat evil is with kindness (and better gun-control laws, but that’s for a different op-ed). I want to urge everyone to really step back and think, “How can I really help this person and their situation?”
If there is one thing I want you, the reader, to take away from this piece, it is that people appreciate actions more than words. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about what you would need. It costs absolutely nothing to be a kind and loving person. I try to incorporate this into my everyday life, and I encourage everyone to as well. After all, no act of kindness is ever wasted.