The year 2021 has been designated as Be Kind year. Designated by me, because 2020 was so damn difficult.
I was motivated specifically by two things, one positive and one not. On the upside is this article about Promoting the power of kindness. There is “a new documentary, ‘The Antidote,’ on Amazon Prime. Directed by Kahane Cooperman and John Hoffman, the film was inspired by what Hoffman sees as an increasingly dangerous cultural and political climate.
“‘There has been such division and such rancor that if that division starts eating away at these common decencies that we exhibit towards one another, then our democracy might truly be in danger,’ Hoffman said.” The “film highlights people for whom kindness isn’t a random act, but a full-time commitment. Cooperman said, “Kindness is a fierce tool and a weapon for change.”
Movie on computer
So I watched The Antidote (2020). The theme seemed to based less on kindness and more on actions of fairness and justice. The CBS piece highlights Dr. Jim O’Connell. Thirty-six years ago, “his mentor suggested he work for a year at a shelter. The shelter’s chief nurse told Dr. O’Connell to set aside the stethoscope and the medical bag. ‘And she put them aside, and I had to soak feet,” he recalled. Yes, soak the feet of the homeless.”
Reporter Mo Rocca asked, “When we pass a homeless person on the street, what should we do?” Dr. O’Connell replied, “The most important thing you can do is to look the person in the eye and just acknowledge them. Really, what they’re looking for is not to be ignored. Just saying hello to somebody, rather than ignoring them, is really, really powerful.”
Interlocking the movie segments is a classroom in Modesto, CA that requires a comparative religions class. You may not be surprised by the takeaway that most major religions have a similar creed, basically the Golden Rule. But what matters is that the eyes of the kids in the classroom were opened.
I found only a couple of reviews. One was a brief but scathing one-star user screed on IMDB calling the film “delusional.” The other was from the Austin Chronicle by Richard Whitaker, which I’m going to quote at length.
“It’s told exactly how you think it would be told. Lots of pretty shots of different locations, with stirring strings and maudlin arpeggio piano… It’s undoubtedly a Kumbaya chorus but is that a bad thing?… [Its] Panglossian philosophy often made the show seem a little glib.
“But maybe we do need to be beaten over the head with the idea that being considerate should not be regarded as a political act. ‘We need more of that,’ says one amiable gentleman who performs his one selfless act in his own moment of paying everything forward. When kindness seems in such short supply, [we require] a little reminder that it’s easy and takes so little effort.”
I said there were two things that inspired my 2021 Be Kind campaign. The other was a post by fillyjonk. It really irritated me. She was waiting in a store for a package of meat. “When the man finally came out, ANOTHER MAN stepped up from the side of the case and said, before I could even open my mouth, ‘I need a pork shoulder’ even though I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE.” The title of the piece, “Again, I’m invisible.”
I surely recognized that feeling. It is awful and infuriating and demoralizing. We can do better. We MUST do better. Rev. Jennifer Butler from Faith in Public Life noted this recently. “In Jewish tradition, we are called to the work of ‘Tikkun Olam,’ repairing the world. All our faith traditions echo this charge by requiring us to move beyond proclaiming our faith with our words to living out our faith in our deeds.”