When kindness is not enough

Kindness, as my people would say, is a cockle warmer. And keeping the cockles of your heart warm is a good thing. Kindness is powerful medicine for both the giver and the receiver. But using kindness as a way to stem the current tide of injustice, misery and corruption is comparable to the little Dutch boy trying to hold back the sea by placing his finger in a hole in the crumbling dyke. It’s just not enough.

And we need to be done handing out gold stars for kindness. Kindness is nothing more (or less) that your base level entry fee into decent society. It is the minimum. And the minimum doesn’t deserve a gold star. The minimum does not deserve accolades.

I don’t know if kindness ever had the power of a pebble dropped in still waters. But I know that today it is more like dropping a pebble into the surf at the seashore when what we need to be doing is building sandbars and breakwaters, putting houses up on stilts and reclaiming marshlands as flood plains. Pebbles dropped into the surf are thoughts and prayers. We need to be of service.

And I hate that. I hate that I have to be of service. Because I am busy. Busy meeting my needs and crafting my dreams. And service carries the weight of sacrifice. (Not to be confused with martyrdom.) And sacrifice is, by definition, hard. But if we are sincere in our desire for a just and equitable world we must, I must, begin to give parts of myself: my time, my money, my patience, my compassion, that are uncomfortable; that stretch my resource. I must stop ignoring my responsibilities to the greater good. Because we have let injustice, privilege and disparity of resource-distribution become institutionalized. They have gone systemic and our nation is deeply diseased.

Why you? Why me? Because there is ALWAYS someone, somewhere who has less than I do: less resource, less power, less know how, less advantage. And they need me step up. If I want the world to be a better place the time for heartfelt hand-wringing has passed. The time for wishing my own decency would magically spread out to the limits of the universe has passed. The time for contenting ourselves by shouting our opinions, facts and truths has passed.

Noblesse oblige: to those who much is given, much is expected.