This is day #3 in the Kindness 101 series. It’s inspired by a daily challenge Natalie Hamilton (@hammyton) has been doing on Periscope called the BeKind101 challenge. 101 days of finding a new, creative way to be kind.
It’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Whether it’s political commentary or celebrity gossip or anything in between, judgment reigns supreme in the 21st century. Yes, I know it has been around and rampant before now but this new century, with it’s new methods of image and word communication, has unleashed a new, and particularly virulent, strain of judgment upon the globe. I know I see it all around me, in casual conversations and in momentous public proclamations.
Here are just a few examples of people and groups I have seen being judged with no knowledge at all of who they really are:
Immigrants & Refugees
Racial & Religious Minorities
What are some other people or groups?
In the worst of these there is only judgment and no interest in understanding the real true life of those individuals.
Why is judgment so rampant and compassion so lacking? My own idea is that it has a lot to do with the separation of people from the individual they are judging. It’s easy to judge someone on the internet, not so easy to give that same judgment in person. It’s easy to judge a celebrity, who seems unreal. It’s harder to judge that same celebrity if you actually know them.
So, how do you, as an individual, combat this judgment culture? Here are my ideas.
Focus your own mind on compassion, thinking and talking in terms of understanding and compassion instead of judgment.
Forego joining the mob of judgers, whether online or in person.
Actively defend those who are being unfairly judged.
Seek out opportunities to be compassionate and understanding in your real life and online.
It’s as simple and as hard as this, isn’t it.
“Never look down on someone unless you are helping them up.”
You can see the creation of this napkin and hear/read a great discussion about the idea by watching the Periscope replay.
This is #2 in my series on Kindness, inspired by my periscope friend Natalie Hamilton’s (@hammyton) #bekind101 challenge. She is scoping for 1o1 days in a row on kindness. Each day she gives out another challenge on how to be kind. She asked me to draw something for her under that theme and I am doing a whole series as a result.
The Assumed Bad
If you were a religious Jew back in Jesus’ day you knew the rules. The rules were pretty simple. Don’t congregate, talk to, touch, befriend or help those of other tribes. One tribe in particular stood out as being one to avoid. The Samaritans. They were dangerous, crude, mean, and evil. They were to be avoided at all costs.
The Assumed Good
If you were a religious Jew back in Jesus’ day you knew who was at the top of the God heap, the Levites. They were the tribe from which the priests of the temple came. Not all Levites were priests but all Levites were given special privileges and had higher expectations placed on the due to them being from that tribe.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Jesus tells the story of a man who gets robbed, beaten, stripped naked and left for dead along the road to Jericho. A Jewish priest walks by and crosses to the other side of the road to avoid the doomed man. A Levite also walks by and crosses the road to avoid the man. Then a Samaritan comes upon the same man. He does not cross the street to avoid him, helping him instead. He tells the story in response to a question from an expert in the Jewish law.
Here is the passage. It is from Luke 10:25-37 in the New Testament of he Christian Bible.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Action vs Intent
The reason this story is known is because the Samaritan took action. If the Samaritan had just thought about doing something good he would have been doing the same thing the priest and the Levite were likely doing, saying to themselves, ‘It would be good to help but I am in a hurry. The robbers might still be around. The guy might be faking it and wanting to rob me himself. I don’t really have the skills to help him or any number of other self-serving rationalizations and even some valid reasons.
The Samaritan took action. Kindness requires action. You can’t be kind in your head alone. If your kindness does not come out in your words, your hands, your feet, your actions, then it really doesn’t exist at all.
You can see the creation of this drawing and a very interesting and intense discussion about it and many other things on my periscope broadcast.
I have been commissioned to do a napkin drawing on the topic of kindness for a fellow Periscoper. I decided to do an entire series on the topic. Here’s the first.
No Day But Today
It’s 5am on a weekday morning. I see a woman getting gas right next to me. I notice she is on the phone being perky, positive and upbeat to whoever is on the other end. I am feeling tired and not at all ready to go running this early. I am doing it grudgingly because I have an obligation to some friends to show up. While I wait for my tank to fill up I listen to her side of the conversation. By the end her enthusiasm and joy has made me feel a lot better about my morning. My outlook has completely changed in the course of 2 minutes.
Wow, who would have thought that overhearing some random person could be so uplifting? I think about saying something to her to let her know how her positive attitude has really changed my morning. I want to thank her. But then she will know I was eavesdropping. She might think I am a creep. She might get mad. I might scare her. She might think I am hitting on her. I should respect her space. I decide to not say anything. She drives away, I drive away. I sort of wish I had said something but it’s no big deal, just a random event at a gas station, not life changing after all.
I run with my friends and two of them tell me my positive attitude really helped them get in a better mood. I tell them about the woman at the station and how I was going to say something but didn’t. Most of them say they wouldn’t have said anything either. It would have been too awkward. But one fellow runner says she wishes I had said something. She says, “You can’t do a kindness too soon for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
I say, “Maybe I will see her next week at the same station, then I will say something to her.”
My friend says, “That would be nice, do that.”
I go home and switch on the TV to watch the news while I change for work. The news is filled with reports of a shooting in a neighboring town. A reporter and her cameraman were shot and killed. What a tragedy. Then they flash the picture of the reporter on the screen. It’s the woman from the gas station.
Fiction and Reality
This is not a true story about me and a woman at a gas station. But it might have been. There was a woman gunned down, Alison Parker, along with her co-worker, Adam Ward, this week in Virginia. Maybe she did get gas at 5am. Maybe she was on the phone, perky and awake. Maybe someone wanted to let her know she was a positive influence that day. I hope if they felt it, they said it. I hope someone gave the kindness they wanted to give to Adam as well. But I don’t know.
But I do know that we never know. And because we never know, we should always err on the side of expressing the kindness we feel when we feel it, instead of waiting for the perfect time or circumstance.
You can see the process of drawing this napkin and the ‘Guess the Quote’ game we played while I drew it.
My wife, Linda, and I sometimes have a bit of a tiff because one of us was sure we told the other something but the other person insists they were never told. She might say she was sure she told me to pay a bill by a certain day. Oh, no you DI’INT! Or maybe I will say I remember distinctly telling her that so and so called. Oh, no you DI’INT!
In most cases what was said actually was said. She told me, I told her. The problem isn’t what was said, it’s what was heard. I know I am guilty plenty of times of not registering what someone has said to me. I am going to go out on a limb and say my wife has been guilty of it a time or two as well. We thought we were communicating but if no one hears it, were we really?
What We Have Here
In the movie ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Luke, the character played by Paul Newman, is subjected to a boat load of punishment because he will not obey his jailers. In the most famous scene of the movie (and #11 in the all time greatest Hollywood movie quotes) his jailer, after beating him says to the onlooking prisoners, “What we have here is failure to communicate.” But when you actually watch the scene and hear the next line, “Some men you just can’t reach”, what the jailer seems to really be saying is there is a failure to listen. That is different than communicating. He is blaming Luke for not listening, not himself for not communicating properly.
But in our daily life it behooves us to ask questions from both sides. First, am I actually communicating well? Is what I am saying accurate and making sense? And second, is the person listening? And if they are, are they actually comprehending what it is I am saying?
If we can do those things we are closer to making sure communication actually has taken place, right?
Periscope on Katch.me
Here is the ‘Guess the Quote’ broadcast I did on Periscope as I drew the napkin. If you would like to find out more about Periscope click the periscope link at the top of the page.
Dominique was born in France but moved to Chicago when she was just a baby. Her father died when she was seven and her mother raised her as best she could. When she was 18 her mother decided to move back to France but Dominique wanted to stay in Chicago and go to school or get a job.
Dominique went to the gallery opening because the exhibition was titled ‘Pierced’. She saw a flyer for it posted in the back hallway of a club where she danced. She wasn’t really an artsy type of person, she had only been to one museum in her life, but she was excited to go because she loved piercings. She had 20 of them herself and was hoping to get more.
She asked one of the other dancers, who went by the stage name ‘Flame’, if she wanted to go with her but she had no baby sitter for that night. The other girls at the club weren’t really very friendly and most of them sort of scared her. She would have invited her best friend at the club, ‘Trinity’, but she had been arrested for her 3rd DUI two days before and was still in jail.
She decided to go alone though it was very scary for her to do so. She never really went out to anything remotely ‘cultural’ even though she read about a lot of those sorts of events online. In her mind she wasn’t very socially adept, never really knowing what to say. She had gotten better at small talk, working at the club had helped her with that, but she still worried about talking about serious stuff. She had it all in her brain, she thought she was pretty smart after all, but she just sort of froze up when that sort of conversation was in front of her.
The gallery was in the art district of Chicago. She had never been there and got lost. She felt annoyed with herself for not figuring out how to get there in advance and felt a panic attack coming on. Luckily she found it right about then and was able to calm herself down by doing the breathing exercises she learned about on some fitness website she sometimes followed. She checked her makeup in the rear view mirror, reapplying her eyeliner just a bit and touching up her lipstick.
She dressed how she thought one should dress for an artsy event. She wore heels that weren’t too tall, certainly not her stiletto height that she wore on stage. She had on a maxi skirt, the only one she owned, with a bold blue and gold print. Blue and gold were her favorite colors and they matched her piercings. Her blouse was just a simple pale blue leotard type top. It did a pretty good job of reducing how big her bust looked, which she hoped for since she hated the attention they got when she wasn’t on the job.
The place had a beautiful sign hanging from the front letting her know the name of the gallery, Foray. The gallery was crowded but not so much so that she couldn’t make her way through. She had to go to the bathroom and asked a cute girl who, in spite of looking about 14 years old, seemed to have a certain confidence standing in the middle of the room, as if she knew the gallery. She pointed to the back of the gallery and said, “Go to the left back there and it’s on the right. I like your piercings, by the way.” Dominique thanked her and went off to find the bathroom.
Dominique chuckled to herself once she left the young girl. So young yet so confident, something she wished she had been at that age. She found the bathroom and relieved herself. There was a big orange vase made out of corrugated cardboard in the corner of her stall. It had a single white PVC pipe sticking out of it with a large paper flower sticking at the end. The flower was blue and gold and looked a lot like the stud coverings she had on her piercings. This made her happy.
She went back out into the gallery and started to look at the art work. She hadn’t really known what to expect since the flyer didn’t have a picture on it. She assumed it would be pictures of people with piercings, but it was not. It was large paintings of strange scenes. One was of a fat man on a fishing boat catching a giant Marlin. It showed a close up of the hook poking through the fish’s lip. Another was of a woman at a sewing machine. She was in pain with her finger impaled by the needle of the machine. It showed blood all over the sewing machine. It made Dominique wince. There was a very large painting of a man dead on the ground with a big hole in him. Another man was standing over him with a gun that was smoking.
It was all very strange to Dominique. She was repulsed but wanted to look at the same time. She had no idea what any of these paintings had to do with piercings at all. She walked into an area where there was a wine bar and food, which she quickly indulged in. She would have preferred water, her mouth was really dry, but she was hungry and thirsty and that’s what was there. The wine wasn’t very good but the little cracker thingies with the tan-colored spread on them were yummy.
She was going for a second helping when the young girl she had asked direction from came up beside her. “You found the bathroom, right?” she asked.
“Yes, found it fine, thank you” she responded. “I liked the vase with the blue and gold flower, that was cool. Who did that one?”
The young girl laughed, “Ha, that’s mine. It’s the only place my mother let me put it. She’s mean like that!”
Right then a woman who looked surprisingly like the young girl came up. “Are you telling a perfect stranger how mean I am to you? You always make me sound like the worst parent.” She laughed and grabbed the girl around the shoulders from behind and nuzzled her neck.
The young girl looked at Dominique and said, “That’s my mom, if you hadn’t guessed.”
Dominique laughed and said, “I figured. You two look a lot alike. She reached out her hand to the girl, What’s your name?”
The girl answered, “I am Veronique but I go by Vera. This mean person behind me is Cruella.”
Her mother laughed and said, “Yep, that’s me, cruelest mother on earth! Actually, my name is Angelique but I usually go by Angel. Nice to meet you.”
She held out her hand and Dominique shook it. Then she turned to Vera and shook her hand as well. Both hands were warm and strong. It made her feel good. “I am Dominique but I usually am just called ‘Dom’.
“So, what do you think of the art here?” Dom asked.
Vera looked at her mom and was about to speak when her mom said, “I am not sure, what do you think?”
Dom responded, “I like it I think. It’s sort of scary though. I like the colors he uses but I don’t really understand how the paintings relate to the title of the show. I only came to here because I like piercing a lot.”
Before she could continue Vera said, “I sort of got that.”
Her mother said, “Don’t be rude Vera.” But Vera rolled her eyes and protested, “I wasn’t being rude, I was just stating the obvious dear mother.”
Dom smiled and said, “I didn’t take it as rude, no worries. I know people look at my face and see a lot of piercings. Anyway, I thought it would about that. I am not sure what these are about. But then again, I don’t know much about art. This is the very first art gallery I have ever been in. And I have only been in one museum before.”
Vera sighed, “You are so lucky! I have lived my whole life going to galleries and museums, they can be so boring!”
Vera’s mother sighed back, “See what I get for exposing my daughter to a life of culture and beauty? Such an ungrateful little waif!” She then let out a big laugh and kissed Vera on the cheek.
Vera wiped her cheek and looked at her mom. “You can be so embarrassing sometimes!” she said as she laughed back.
Dom was completely enthralled by how fun this encounter was. Her spirits were lifted by seeing the relationship between Vera and her mom. But she was confused. “So, I have a question Vera. You said the vase in the bathroom was yours and your mom would only let you put it there. So Angel, does that mean you are the owner of the gallery?”
Angel answered with a smile, “No, not the owner. I am the artist. Vera wanted to take over the gallery with her vases but I, meanest mother in the world, wouldn’t let her. She got the bathrooms and she’s lucky to have them.” She laughed.
“You did these paintings? Really?” Dom said with her jaw open. She was now mortified. “I am so sorry I said I didn’t get them. I really do think they are good. Don’t listen to me, I don’t know anything. I should have just shut…”
Angel put her hand up to stop her, interrupting, “It’s completely OK Dominique. I wasn’t offended. I completely understand people will have all sorts of opinions about the work. I will say however that the reason I think the name of the show and the paintings are connected is that each painting shows something or someone getting pierced by something.”
Dom looked around. “Damn, how did she miss that!”, she thought to herself. “Uh…DUH me. Now I see it. Man, sometimes I can be so dumb.”
“No worries, you aren’t the first person who didn’t see the connection.” Angel said. “I was married to my husband for 10 years and he NEVER got any of the connections I was trying to make. But I still loved him anyway.”
Vera came up close to her mom and hugged her around the waist in a sweet, comforting gesture. Dom wasn’t sure what it was all about figured it wasn’t any of her business anyway.
Angel excused herself, saying she had to mingle with other guests. She looked at Vera and said, “Are you ok on your own for now?”
She laughed, pointed at Dom and said, “Yep, I am going to walk around with her and explain all the weird things in your paintings that no one ever notices!”
Dom and Vera did just that. They walked around the gallery and Vera explained about little secrets, and in some cases the larger story, behind the paintings.
They got to the last painting, of a man with a gun in his hand standing over someone he had just shot. Dom said, “This is the most gruesome of all the paintings I think. What’s the story behind this one?”
Vera looked at her and said, “This one is of my dad. He had to kill someone a long time ago to protect my mom and me. We went to the mall to shop and there was some guy who started firing a gun near us. My dad pushed us both down into a lingerie store and ran after the guy. He fought him and got the gun away and killed him.”
Dom was stunned. “Wow, your dad was a real hero that day! How did he get the courage to go do that?”
“I don’t know” Vera responded. “Mom says he never really was a scary strong guy before, but she said something just came over him and he did it. She tells me that he never said anything about it afterwards except that he loved us and wanted to make sure we were safe.”
“Wow. Did he ever talk to you about it?” Dom asked.
Vera looked up at Dom and said, “No, he died before I really was old enough to talk to him very much. I was only 5.”
Dom put her hand on Vera’s shoulder. “I am so sorry to hear that. He sounds like he was a really great dad. I bet you miss him.” She was crying as she spoke.
Vera noticed the tears and said, “It’s ok now. I remember good things about him. I am not sad that much anymore.”
Dom said, “You know why I am crying? There is something you don’t know about me. My dad died too. I was only 7.”
Vera looked at her and wrapped her arms around her waist. “I am sorry, it sucks, doesn’t it.”
“Yes, it does.” said Dom.
Vera and Dom went back into the main gallery to get something to eat and drink. They saw Angel again and Vera told her about Dom’s dad dying. Angel gave Dom a hug, holding on for quite a while. She asked, “Would you like to go to dinner with a few of us after the opening is over? It will just be another half an hour if you can wait. I would love to have you with us.”
Vera piped up, “Yes, you have to come, promise?”
Dom smiled and said, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”
The dinner was great, as was the fun day the three of them had at the Zoo a week later. Dom started watching Vera a few days a week after school while Angel was at her day job. Vera taught her how she made her paper vases and flowers.
Dom quit her dancing job a few months later. It was a big financial hit but she had saved up some and knew she needed to get out of that business soon anyway. She got a job at the front desk of the Foray Gallery and Vera would come hang out there after school. Dom eventually learned bookkeeping and took over running the gallery’s business side. Turned out she was good at it.
Angel became a very well-known artist and her paintings became much sought after. They started selling to not just collectors but museums as well. The gallery even sold one for $100,000.00, which blew everyone away. There was a big celebration that night!
When Foray’s owner wanted to sell the gallery to move down to Florida to be closer to his dying parents, Dom, Angel and Vera went in together and bought the gallery.
They remained best of friends for the rest of their lives.
Year later, when Dom was asked what was the secret of her success, she would always say the same thing, “The secret to my success is very simple. I had one moment of courage to go see art when I was 21 years old. Everything else came from that”