Moving Forward with Kindness

The little things matter. Now, more than ever

Get out of the house. Go outside. Walk around. Inhale. Hug someone who hugs back. Stop reading Twitter. Forgive yourself for reading Twitter. Set up a recurring, once-a-month donation to the L.A. Regional Food Bank. Or California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. Or AIDS Walk L.A. Or supporting local immigrant-owned businesses.

It doesn’t matter how much you give. Kindness begets kindness, and we need kindness right now. Think about the importance of being kind, and then vote with your wallet. That’s what a lot of Americans did yesterday. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Resolve to read more (and by “read,” I don’t mean “read pundits”). Read anything—W.S. Merwin’s poetry, Beyonce’s lyrics, Patti Smith’s memoirs, Taylor Branch’s books about Martin Luther King, Jr.—anything that reminds you of the importance of even small gestures of selflessness. Be generous—with your time, your money, your attention. Hold the elevator for that stranger who’s taking forever. Put a fiver in the tip jar. Notice the guy who parks your car everyday in the lower basement, the guy who always greets you with a smile even though you know he works three jobs and one of them requires him to breathe exhaust fumes in an unventilated tomb of a parking lot for eight hours a day. Ask him how he’s doing, where he comes from, what his name is. Ask him.

Resolve to remember that you don’t know everything and that for all your well-meaning attempts to imagine what it’s like to be someone else, you can’t ever really know that. You are naïve. It’s not your fault—it’s the human condition. But acknowledging ignorance is the first step to changing it. If you are white, understand how big an advantage it is to be white in this country. If you are comfortable, know how lucky you are to not want. Be humble. Strive to understand the difference between what you’ve been given and what you have earned.

Are you still in your bathrobe? That’s okay. So am I. Go take a hot shower. Forgive yourself. Go to work. Yes, I’m referring to that job that pays your rent. But also: Think about going to work in another way, too. It doesn’t have to be today. Today you should get that tuna melt you usually try to shun. Today you can indulge yourself. Tomorrow, though, think about how you can step it up. It is more complicated today to be a little girl. You know the reasons why. Is there any role you can play in proving to little girls that, to quote the losing side, “you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance”? If so, play it. (Here’s one way).

Don’t be bitter. Try not to pile on negativity. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. There’s been too much of that of late, and that shit can be contagious. Get up. Take your meds. Drive down Sunset Boulevard to the ocean on your lunch break, if you get one, and remember how big the world is. Try hard not to panic about how scary that big world can be, especially now. I don’t care what political party you identify with. Make a promise to yourself: I will give more, take less. I will participate. I will not hang my head. OK, today, go ahead and mope if you need to. But tomorrow: Get up earlier. And get after it.