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Blogs from 2011

A few days ago I put a signature on my Forum messages.

on Wednesday, 30 November 2011 13:59. Posted in 2011


A few days ago I put a signature on my Forum messages. It was one I’d heard a long time ago and that had made a great impression on me. Attributed to many different people, it may have been said by Plato and goes more or less like this, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

At first, I think I just read it, thought “pop psychology” and started to read on—and then alarm bells (or alarum bells, as my beloved J.R.R. Tolkien would have it)—started to go off in my head. Great battle? What great battle? Of course, I was fighting a few great battles, but surely not everybody. . . .

Then I thought back to my adolescence, when I was fighting battles on every front, and so was everybody else I knew. The battle just to try to be myself, for one thing. The battle to deal with some fairly terrible stuff in my life. And I was living in America . . . in California, for goodness sake. What would a girl my age be doing in a poorer, less developed country? Carrying water—if there was drinkable water—and trying to make enough food for one to stretch into eight portions?

I thought of my father who has terrible pain in his back, undoubtedly brought on by the football scholarship that sent him to college . . . of an aunt whose mother had just died . . . of a friend who was always cheerful, and always kind. And a sort of ping went off in my brain, because this ever-cheerful friend had done a wonderfully kind thing for me, and . . . I want to pass it on. There can never be too much kindness in this world.

Christina, which I will use as an alias for the cheerful friend, had given me a wonderful gift, one that can help me at any time of day or night when I might feel in need of a little kindness. She’d given me a jar of KindNotes, which can be found at www.KindNotes.com and bears the logo “Send a smile each day.” It was a lovely jar, filled with miniature envelopes, inside of which is tucked a message. If you like, you can write write all thirty two messages by yourself—and this is what Christi—I mean Christina did. The site even has suggestions for what sort of things to say.

Everything about the gift is customizable, so you can give your pink-loving friend pink stuffing under her notes and cherry blossom envelopes. But most important is that you can say things that you might not want to say aloud, like You’re the best Mom in the world and I’m sorry about breaking your vase!” or “You sure looked good in your little black dress last Saturday.” They can be as generic or as intimate as you like—and this gift keeps on giving. If the person you give the jar to has moderate patience, it can take weeks or even months before she or he opens that last note.

Such a simple idea—why didn’t anybody think of it before? We can be kind to others when we see that they are fighting a great battle, whether it’s being treated unfairly by their boss, or just generally grieving over the many, many injustices in life. And of course if you’re not the writer-type, or worry that your special honey will think you aren’t, you can just send a preprinted jar of cheery quotes. There’s something about actually reaching in and picking out an envelope, opening it, and reading it, that makes it different from inspiring messages in books or on billboards. There’s a tactile sense that is satisfied, sort of like getting your first much-folded love note times thirty-two!

And no, there’s nothing in it for me for this free endorsement of a product I find have just discovered. I would never do that. And, yes, if you are creative you can do this whole thing from scratch, using a large jam jar and just folding the messages for your giftee. But, yes, I have already placed and paid for my Christmas order for notes for people I want to be kind to. I like the look of the notes, the customizability of the filling and envelopes, and the friendliness and helpfulness of the people in the online store.

Now I know that everyone I meet is fighting a great battle. And I’ve decided that I would like to cheer some of them on. As a militant idealist, it’s my sworn duty to add a touch of kindness to this world.