Have you noticed how angry many people seem to be right now? Linda and I noticed it driving home from Oakland on a pleasant Sunday morning. People drove their cars as if the cars were weapons and it was war.
Whatever their politics, a lot of people feel the strain of uncertainty, and often they express their fear with anger. Politics is one big angry fight. Here in California we’re feeling climate change very strongly, and people are worried, some are downright frightened. Things we used to depend on seem undependable.
In such times, I keep myself calm with the first line of the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian
Much as I’d like to, by myself I can’t fix the climate. I can’t fix Pacific Gas & Electric. I can’t fix Washington. It may be that by voting, in cooperation with others, I may be able to help with those things, but it isn’t Election Day yet. So I have to put those things, for now, on the “accept” list. I don’t like them, but that’s reality.
What do I have the power to change? I can choose to be one tranquil person, one kind person, out there on the road and in the world generally. I can choose that each person with whom I interact leaves our conversation at least no more upset than they were when we began.
- I can say “no” kindly, when I have to say no.
- I can say “yes” with grace, when I can say yes.
- I can maintain a calm and kind presence.
- I can be a careful driver, neither in a hurry nor too slow.
- I can focus on the Jewish value of kindness, chesed, and try to bring it to every interaction.
More thoughts about kindness:
The world rests upon three things: Torah, worship, and acts of kindness.Pirkei Avot 1:2
Acts of kindness never die. They linger in the memory, giving life to other acts in return.– Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in From Optimism to Hope
The Torah begins and ends with striking examples of acts of loving kindness. God clothes Adam and Eve and buries Moses personally.– Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, “Loving Kindness in the Torah“
My own behavior is one thing I can control. Kindness is what each of us can bring to the world in times of trouble.