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OPINION: COVID kindness is a different kind

Many of my recent kindness conversations are about dropping food at the homes of others – neighbours, friends or strangers. The intention is noble, the responses vary.

Recently, I have been asking and listening to stories about kindness and gratitude.

During COVID, it is obvious that our kind-hearted acts need a bit more courage, patience, perspective and persistence. 

COVID has changed the rules for our social networking and accepted ways of community engagement. With the maelstrom of change affecting our daily patterns of life, we are weathering a perfect storm of negativity, fiery moods, bad manners and temper tantrums.

Obviously, no one is immune from feeling anxious, confused, and unsettled and everyone has to try even harder when it comes to kindness.

While fear, fight and flight are the tendencies that have many of us on speed dial right now, we need to remember – we are also hard-wired to be kind.

Many of my recent kindness conversations are about dropping food at the homes of others – neighbours, friends or strangers. The intention is noble, the responses vary.

Some doors are spontaneously opened wide and with genuine appreciation the kindness is received. With smiling faces and bright eyes, both the giver and receiver get a boost of oxytocin and exchange a heart-warming moment of "we can do this."

Some doors are opened suspiciously, but after questions are answered, reassurance and encouragement given, the gift is accepted, in the spirit intended. Whether the gift is a jar of soup, a handmade card, a bouquet of flowers or bottle of wine, warmth and gratitude are exchanged.

Other stories are not so easy to understand. Sometimes, the doors remain closed and someone is sitting inside, alone in the dark. Kind helpers walk away, feeling rebuffed and confused. Was the silence a personal snub, or is the person not answering for reasons of significant concern?

These are times of change. Change means loss and loss brings change. It is a vicious cycle and all are trying to manage our fragile reserves. 

COVID relationships are stories of social interactions sometimes left dangling with feelings frayed. Phone calls remain unanswered. Text messages are unacknowledged. Neighbours look out their windows, concerned about each other and silence grows. 

In times like this, kindness takes special considerations. 

Kindness takes courage to keep trying, to lower our expectations and give courage to the other person to choose their response. 

What if the lonely individual is completely self-aware and doesn't want to answer the phone or go to the door because she doesn't want to show up in a grumpy frame of mind? 

If Ms. Grump has the self-awareness, knows that now is not a good moment, she needs to be given permission to choose her own timing for opening the door – maybe sometime next week. 

If Mr. Kind is self-aware, maybe he knows that he is also seeking positive ways to connect and for him, kindness is his way of dealing with his own loneliness.

Who is doing what for whom? 

Criticizing Ms. Grump for not coming to the door, just because Mr. Kind is knocking may be unfair. Each of us, as individuals are dealing with our own COVID disconnect and norms that are foreign. 

Persistence and patience may mean waiting until the time is right to ask for, to accept or to offer help. As in, not today, maybe tomorrow. 

Kindness requires perspective – trying to understand without judgment.

COVID kindness at its best has no expiry date, has few expectations and no strings attached. 

Still, let's keep reaching out, knocking and opening doors, offering soup and concern and staying hopeful. Then, when the time is right, when the energy shifts, when COVID is in our rear view mirror, there will be a colourful glow of moments where we shone with kindness, connection and gratitude. 

If you are interested in joining an online social, Gratitude Parrrtay via Zoom, contact lorraine@grassrootsgratitude.ca  Ground Rules are basic basic ABC's: Accept differences. Be kind. Count your blessings.