March 15, 2021

A Call: Join the Kindness Conspiracy.

Dave Chappelle performed a pretty scathing monologue for Saturday Night Live right after the election.

He challenged everyone to start a “kindness conspiracy” where white folks do random acts of kindness for Black people. Chapelle explained, “Do something nice for a Black person just because they’re Black, and you’ve got to make sure they don’t deserve it. The same way all them years they did terrible things to Black people just because they’re Black and they didn’t deserve it.”

Kindness Conspiracy = Kindness with piracy. That’s what the words look like to me. I see a pirate—happy just because—looking adorable, with a cute double chin, dimples and curly hair. Instead of a sword, wielding a big wooden soup spoon, and they’re busy dipping up bowls of chicken noodle soup for everyone. With extra noodles. I need to hang out with a cuddly kindness pirate.

Here’s why:

I live in a fairly diverse neighborhood; Nigerian neighbors on one side and Pakistani neighbors across from me. English may be the third or fourth language for many of the inhabitants here, so our communication is limited. That is what I say to myself anyway to explain why I don’t know any of my neighbors. I tell myself it is the Pacific Northwest, so we are a bit more reserved. I blame it on the rainy skies. Not wanting to be misunderstood, I limit my interactions—a few waves and smiles, and maybe a sentence or two of conversation. I am a white woman with pilgrim ancestors, trying to delicately tread through this world with more open eyes. 

I am waking up to just how deeply I cling to an American white cultural belief: a very strong sense of righteous indignation about how things “should be.”

Okay, confession time. When my Pakistani neighbor put up sparkly lights the second week of November, I exclaimed, “Geez! It isn’t even Thanksgiving!” My husband gave me that look. I researched and was humbly embarrassed to find out that most probably my neighbors celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights. How cool, I thought. I put my lights up, too. The more lights, the better! The next November, as he was putting them up, I said, “Oh! Happy Diwali!” He smiled. I was pretty proud of myself. Okay, my ego is firmly in place, but I am trying. Kindness Pirate, help!

Over and over, day after day, I am faced with my own biases, little snakes in the grass that pop up and I have to figure out how to navigate around them without a bite in the ass.

Confession number two: my white next-door neighbor irritates the heck out of me. She gets approximately 3,000 boxes delivered every other day, and all those boxes are piled in a huge mess in front of her door for recycling. 

I call her the Cardboard Collector, and if the wind comes, trash ends up all over the place and it feels like it never gets picked up. So I very righteously pick up trash with a tight jaw. And then grouse and complain while puttering around the house. One day, about a month ago, she pulled a bag of peat moss soil out of her car and it ripped, leaving a huge pile of sticky peat moss on her driveway, and she left it there. Right in the middle. She literally had to drive over the pile to get in and out of her driveway—and she did, week after week. I plotted, planned, and complained to any friend that would listen, figuring ways to get that mess off the concrete and onto her small garden area—but my husband said I needed to stay off her property or she might call the cops.

Then it snowed. So much. Aha! Now I could shovel snow for her (that’s a thing) and voila! The dirt would be shoved up too, and I would dump it onto her garden. I thought I was so clever. And it sort of worked, like many well-intentioned plans. Most of it made it to the garden, although snow doesn’t melt evenly, so it was a big, slushy, muddy mess, now all over the edges of her drive. I restrained myself from further intervention, but it is so damn hard for me to let go. Yet, it’s much easier to attempt to control the Cardboard Collector than my own silly self.

So, it isn’t really a kindness conspiracy because I am not plotting for the sake of equalising love, I am plotting because I am so damn irritated. Does that still work?

I don’t think so either. If I am honest with myself, I am the one needing intervention. So, every time my eyes stray to her home, I repeat a loving-kindness meditation in her general direction: “May you be well. May you be happy, healthy, and safe. May you be at peace.” Over and over, gritting my teeth a little less each time I say it, till I round the bend and can’t see her door anymore. I notice I am releasing the death grip on my irritations. See, I know in my mostly functioning brain that this is much more about me than it is about her.

Thing is, she pats my very nervous dog. She smiles and waves when she is leaving or coming in. So all this energy I am expending deciding whether or not she is good or bad is winding me up in chaotic inner wind storms. 

If I send her loving thoughts, I feel better. Kinder. Softer around my prickly edges.

As I turned the corner the other day, I saw my Black neighbor on the other side of the Cardboard Collector gently folding up a box that had flown into his yard and putting it into his recycling bin. As I got closer, he looked up smiling, and waved. I waved back. We can all join in the Kindness Conspiracy. Some of us do it more naturally than others. 

Smiling, I get out of my car, and I can almost hear that giggly Kindness Pirate. In my head, I see myself with KP (I can call him/her that, we are so close now). BFFs with the KP. Arms around each other, slurping noodles, giggling. 

I wonder if my neighbors would like some chicken soup. Maybe I’ll make a vegetarian version, too. With so many extra noodles.

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