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How Kindness Cuts Through Everything Else

Here we are at Monday again. I can't believe it's almost September. 

Last week, I felt like I was swimming in a pool of decency as network airwaves were taken over each night by a parade of politicians and voters exalting the merits of kindness, inclusion, and diversity. The Democratic National Convention was slick. It was highly produced. Political messaging is built to tug on our heartstrings, but I didn't care. I was so relieved to hear language and see images that felt like water on parched earth.

Kamala Harris accepted her nomination, telling us, "Every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity, and respect." And on Thursday night, a young boy named Brayden got two minutes of airtime to talk about stuttering and what a difference a supportive role model can make. When they met, Joe Biden took the boy's number and stayed in touch, sharing tips and tricks for speaking in public and reading out loud. Joe isn't perfect. Neither is Kamala, or even Michelle (though, damn, she's close), but that's the point, isn't it? None of us are perfect, but when compassion and decency guide our way, we're always headed in the right direction.

Someone close to me, who I love very much, has struggled mightily with stuttering. I have spent countless minutes sitting at dinner tables, waiting for that person to find words. As a kid, I sat outside of speech therapy offices, waiting for sessions to be over, and I have seen and absorbed the pain caused by bullies who seize on opportunities to diminish other people because they aren't "normal."

My work with body positivity and women's rights came from witnessing and experiencing that same cruelty heaped on people whose bodies aren't considered "fit" or "beautiful" enough—and in recent years I've been increasingly educated about how people suffer every day because their skin isn't white enough.

Cruelty has been the hallmark of power these last few years, so when Kamala was selected by Joe, I had a wave of PTSD. Instead of feeling optimism, I felt dread. How could I hope? The prospect of hope being crushed again—for me and the beautiful people I work with everyday—was unthinkable.

But last week, people of all colors, abilities, and sizes got a chance to speak to a national audience, and they reminded me of the fabric that holds us together—common cause, decency, and respect. I see integrity in a vast majority of us. We're all weaving our little bits of that fabric, and, no matter what happens in November, we possess the power to keep on weaving. Nobody can take that away, unless we let them. 

You'll be hearing about my new book in coming months. It's my offering to help people gather whatever thread they need to weave their own bits of indestructible fabric. It's a playful, mythical roadmap through the muck and out the other side, a story in which you get to set your own course by filling in the blanks along the way. And the siren song of this gnarly journey is kindness—for ourselves and everybody else. I hope it's a useful tool to find clarity in what matters to you and a concrete approach to go about achieving it—so we can get on with making some more good trouble.

Last week, a group of people reading this letter chose to do one thing to reinforce their well-being for one minute, once a day, every day for a week. We chose all sorts of things: guitar practice, meditation, stretching, planks, reading a poem, push-ups, breathing, and bicep curls. It's not too late to join us. We're a troublesome bunch, breaking out of the swamp one minute per day. Our incendiary little scheme runs through Friday. It enters you to win two free, signed copies of The Habit Trip too.

So this week, as you pick your way through the muck, what is your little bit of kindness, your thread that's helping hold the world together? What is something you can do every day—one minute of kindness for yourself and one for somebody else?  Little things matter: checking on a friend, donating, snuggling an animal, playing with a kid, calling your senator, teaching, listening, recycling, celebrating someone else's success. They all matter. So this week, I'm celebrating Brayden, and Biden and Kamala too. I'm celebrating kindness and bravery.  I hope you are, as well. And don't worry, I'm raging too, and harboring periodic fantasies of hiding under a table. Taking it one minute at a time.



Speaking of mentors and kindness, I need to take a minute to freak out about the fact that a role model of mine has championed my work, for the second book in a row! Daniel Pink is goofy and funny and ferociously smart. His books piqued my curiosity about why people bother to make changes, how they succeed, and how they fail. I met him a few years ago at an event at Parnassus Books, and he has been nothing but supportive of my work ever since. Thank you, Dan, for teaching so many of us that creativity is at the heart of transformation and for showing me what a difference a nudge from a mentor can make. I'll be passing along that wealth, and I'm hugely grateful!


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