Lightyears from now (this Tuesday), after the polls close, things not named Donald Trump, Joe Biden, the Supreme Court, and human despair will begin to peek through the cracks of perpetual horror we’ve been treated to this year. In that periphery is World Kindness Day, on November 13. What a concept. If you haven’t looked it up lately, I did so you don’t have to: “Kindness” is defined, at least by the language lobby behind dictionaries, as “the quality or state of being kind” or “a kind deed.”
Some help. If you write a dictionary, don’t use the word in its own definition. The root “kind” means “of a sympathetic or helpful nature.” The earliest “kindness” in newspapers I’ve found is a 1724 use (“abundant kindness”), but it dates further to 1300, even though, like all archives, those of the news are constrained by the exclusionary practices and blind spots of the drafters of history. There’s a kindness book called The Kindness Book. It’s a children’s one. I haven’t read past page 2 because the free preview won’t let me, but pages 1 and 2 are good. I’m going to be kind to myself and lift a finger to borrow it from the library, and if I like it, buy it. There’s also a heavier lift called On Kindness, a philosophical and literary look.
Don’t worry, kindness is not niceness. Critically skewering villains and false allies is a kindness in the public interest, and is not nice. Not-nice kindness is essential. Conversely, compliments can be misplaced and not kind, and not-kind niceness isn’t what’s meant by World Kindness Day. Sooner or later we’ll have World Contempt Day, World Grudge Day, and World Demonizing Day, and those can feel like every day. For now, mark November 13.
Share a word about kindness shown to you or by you at firstname.lastname@example.org.