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Just Kindness

Illumination |

By Shawn Berry

The withholding of kindness must be one of the greatest tragedies, for it benefits no one. Much worse, it serves to isolate and divide us into smaller and smaller groups. Can we get any smaller than the nuclear family? Some have pushed further into living alone! Isolation has severe health impacts on humans including reduced lifespan.

This is such an awkward moment for us modern humans to navigate. Our biopsychology is failing to catch up with the rapid changes of the last 200 years. At the turn of the 19th century the global population just tipped 1 billion and the industrial revolution kicked us into a whirlwind of fast-paced technological, economic and social changes. At that moment only an estimated 7% of humanity lived in urban areas. The UN estimates 2007 was the year when, for the first time, more people in the world lived in urban than in rural areas. 

Think about it, homo sapiens emerged approximately 300,000 years ago. For all that time, most humans have lived a simple rural subsistence lifestyle in relatively small bands. Our advanced sophisticated body-minds have evolved for millennia in this context and now, just now, we have been thrust into these massive mechanized and digitized urban environments. We are still in collective shock at not knowing our neighbors. Fear is rampant and, honestly, the world is still not a safe place. I understand the need for discernment, and even fear and mistrust of strangers. But at what cost? The Harvard Study on Adult Development has shown us that the “warmth of relationships throughout life has the greatest positive impact on ‘life satisfaction’.”

So it seems simple – just be kind and warm and we can all be happy. However, that is not an option for everyone when some people, disconnected from true community belonging become seduced by the attraction of short-term wealth accumulation and are able to perceive fellow humans as less significant. 

Breaking. Othering. Stealing. Poverty does not exist on its own, it is the result of theft and suppression. The myth of wealth is that it is due to the merit of the individual. The shadow truth is that it was stolen from the commons. Even the wealthy do not win in this zero sum game. We all suffer when the mental illness of hoarding is erroneously lauded as a virtue. In traditional cultures, a community member who is found to be hoarding would have their surplus redistributed and their mental illness embraced and treated by the community with warm understanding and firm boundaries. 

I am calling for Just Kindness.

Just: so everyone’s needs matter and are met. Kindness: for healing and warm relations. 

I understand many of us don’t have the privilege to know how good it can be. Due to long-running proliferation of many social diseases such as racism, economic exploitation, slavery, violence, and warfare, far too many people have been raised in unjust conditions. 

But many of us have been shown kindness and it is our duty to pass it on. Kindness can be simple words of gratitude or appreciation, touch or gentle presence. Those are all very good.

I am also thinking of a more powerful kindness that will guarantee that everyone’s basic needs are met. For those who have too much, kindness will be a limit on accumulation, and healing to fill the hole they have tried to stuff with power and possession; healing with warmth, love and real connection. 

That is Just Kindness. If you have some, please share it. If you don’t, can you find some in the simple grace of your next breath? I see a way forward for us to heal together toward a kind, warm and connected future. 


SHAWN BERRY:

I am inspired by a simple vision of humans working in harmony with each other and with nature, to create a joyous and abundant world for all. To this end I have spent my career starting and growing democratic, solution oriented, systems changing enterprises and organizations. I am currently a Partner and Worker-owner at LIFT Economy.


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The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Good Work Institute or any other agency, organization, employer or company. And since we are critically-thinking human beings, these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. Please do not hold anyone accountable to them in perpetuity.