Looking Forward: Will Kindness Rally in 2017?

“If you ask me what I came to this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” (Emile Zola)

Attribution: Donna CameronI try always to spend some time in contemplation at the end of each year. I’m not big on holiday celebrations, decorations, or entertaining, but I like to use that time to find my quiet center and think about the year that is coming to a close, as well as to set intentions for the year ahead.

I’ve probably said enough about 2016, the year of the bully, the year we saw the phrase “anything is possible” come to mean “welcome to the apocalypse.” I will only say that kindness took quite a hit. But it’s not down and it’s not out. That brings me to the new year.

As I look forward to 2017, I’m noticing a complexity to my intentions. It seems like it is not so much setting goals as managing polarities—trying to find the right balance between seemingly opposite, conflicting objectives.

Kindness vs. Confrontation:

I want to be kind. I also want to stand up to injustice and bigotry with all my strength and with my full voice. These two things need not be in conflict, but sometimes it is hard to be kind when face-to-face with deliberate incivility, prejudice, and disregard for the truth. I struggle with the challenge of remaining kind while also standing up to lies and bigotry. I remind myself to call out the behavior not the person, but there are people whose behaviors speak so loudly of who they are that it is hard to separate the two. And maybe sometimes we can’t…and shouldn’t. I will be ready. I will practice standing up to bigotry without expressing similar intolerance. I will think now about what I will say if I see someone being harassed because they are a minority, or a member of the LGBTQ community, or differently-abled—be it on a plane, in a store, or online. I will not be silent.

Isolation vs. Activism:

I want to withdraw into a place where the gloom is not so constant, where I can sometimes forget for a few hours that values like honesty, integrity, and equality have been kicked to the curb. I want to lick my wounds and take care of myself and the people I love. At the same time, more than ever I want to speak out, to march, to use whatever meager talents I have to stand for what I believe to be right. I recognize that self-care must be a priority if I am to be in this fight for the long-haul, and if I am to avoid becoming perpetually angry and a hardened cynic. As something of an introvert, I know that for me self-care means residing in quiet places where I can replenish my spirit and reconnect with my deepest values. When refueled, I can cluster with like-minded people, draw strength from them, and let them draw strength from me. I will not be silent.

Optimism vs. Pessimism:

I want to be an optimist; that is my default setting (while my husband has firmly claimed the opposite position). But I also know that mindless optimism is dangerous. I have to be realistic and cognizant to the fact that there are people in positions of power who are counting on the obliviousness and optimism of their foes. If I deny the damage they can do and simply trust that “all will be well,” their greed, bigotry, and deceit will grow and take a deeper hold. So, I’m going to try for what I’m calling optimistic realism: I anticipate that the year ahead is going to introduce us to rings of hell we never imagined, and I also recognize that those of us standing up to prejudice and the misuse of power will ultimately triumph over those destructive forces by our sheer numbers and our unwavering commitment. I will not be silent.

What Remains Sacred

Even with these apparent polarities to be managed, there are still some things that brook no compromise, that stand alone as values to be upheld—no matter what:

Truth is one such absolute. Sadly, the biggest casualty of 2016 was the truth. We have seen that there are people for whom the truth is only important when it serves their interests, and who will trample on it if it gets in their way. History has shown us what happens when people allow truth to be selective and manipulated. Truth may not always be pretty, and it may not be soothing, but we must face it and act accordingly. We must not be silent.

Integrity, like truth, is not conditional. We either act with integrity or we don’t. Most of us know the difference. Those who don’t need to be enlightened and if they still disregard integrity, they need to be removed from power. We must not be silent.

Justice and equality. These two go together. There is no justice if standards apply differently depending on the ethnicity, gender, or status of the individuals. There are no groups that are inherently superior, none that are intrinsically entitled. Having said that, there may be times when justice and equality dictate that we offer an advantage to make up for decades of disadvantage. Someone once said, “At the table of peace there will be bread and justice.” That table has no place for those who measure success by wealth and who equate affluence with power. We must not be silent.

Since launching this blog, I’ve started and ended each year with one particular quote from Neil Gaiman. This year, it’s still Neil Gaiman, but it’s a different quote:

Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand. Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin. Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

Peace and thanks to all of you, my friends. Sharing with you the joys, sadnesses, challenges, and disappointments of 2016 has strengthened me and fed my resolve. I feel blessed to be part of a warm and embracing community. My wish for you—for all of us—in the coming year is for health, happiness, laughter, strength, voice, community, and, of course, kindness.

10 thoughts on “Looking Forward: Will Kindness Rally in 2017?

  1. What a lovely post, Donna – expressing very well the difficult balance we must strike between the polarities we’ve had presented to us. At times, it feels like an overwhelming task with a tremendous learning curve. For all my cynicism (which is my nature), I feel optimistic about the upcoming year.

    There’s no room for complacency and a great deal to learn in how to create dialogue, how to protest as an introvert and how to be better than what we are – a lot of ways to learn about the true meaning of kindness. I wish you a happy new year rooted in empathy and growth and courage!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your wise comment, Michelle, and for your kind wishes. You are so right that the coming year promises to be educational—learning how to negotiate unfamiliar landscapes, and to communicate in situations and conversations we never imagined we’d be having. I know I will be gleaning wisdom from The Green Study in the year ahead. Hope it’s a great one for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! I am struggling too and I’m just not sure what to do sometimes (actively protest, stay in my personal happy place, a little of both?). I know that I will be out there with other progressives on Jan. 21 (locally, though, not in Washington D.C.) because I think that it’s important to say “NO, this isn’t normal” as much as we can. On the other hand, I don’t want to remain in a state of agitation for the next four years.

    Lovely Neil Gaiman quote. Have a wonderful and joyous – where ever it can be found – New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Janis. It will certainly be a balancing act to navigate the coming year(s). I’m planning to be out there, too, on January 21—here in Seattle, not D.C. I hope the message we all send that day is a powerful one, and that it resonates worldwide. Wishing you all the best in the new year!


  3. If nothing else, 2016 has surely shaken many of us out of our cocoons of complacency. (Militant butterflies, unite!) And I have been thinking long and hard about the underlying causes of rising fanatical tribalism around the world. Fear, anger, certainly, and beneath that: too many people, too few — and rapidly-shrinking — resources. In addition to confronting the rise of fascism and corporate power-mongers, we must ally with the powerless and tend to the earth. (Though the planet just may be so damned sick and tired of us, it will shake us off like a bad case of fleas and heal itself just fine without homo sapiens.) And on that note of cheer, I wish you and this old world peace, love, and understanding. And another YOLK, please, dear Donna.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, Kris, what a wise woman you are, my militant butterfly friend. If only more people would engage in conversation about the underlying causes of the current state of the world and the accompanying discourse. What we are doing to the earth we are doing to ourselves—and those who are unwilling not only to accept this fact but even to discuss it are hastening doom. There is such a deep divide right now and as we choose sides, I am hopeful that enough of us will choose to side with the earth and those who have long been denied power. Your words remind me of the old saying, “Let us live simply, so others may simply live.” How quaint and ridiculous that must sound to people who consider wealth and success to be the same thing, and who believe their 24K gold furniture makes them superior to others.
      It is a frightening thought to imagine the earth saying, “Enough,” and shaking us off like fleas (what a great analogy, my writer friend), but there is also a bit of comfort in picturing the planet getting along just fine without us, and regaining the health we’ve been systematically undermining (boy, if that word doesn’t have a double meaning!). May this new year surprise us in wonderful ways, Kris. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well said! It is so important that we speak out against injustice in whatever form it may appear (and it certainly will be appearing often these days.) At the same time, to be a God-honoring and loving people, we have to be ready at a moment’s notice to be gracious, forgiving, and encouraging whenever we see the beginning of a movement toward repentance. That’s one of my favorite biblical words — repentance — because it literally means a change in the way a person is thinking. Changed behavior comes with new attitudes and values, I’m happy, Donna, that our voices complement one another. ( mikenowandthen.wordpress.com )


    • Thanks, Mike, for your thoughtful comment, and the wise thoughts and observations you share on your blog. I’m glad to have found you and connected. Stay strong for the crusade ahead!


  5. Thanks so much for writing this! I agree with the cautions re kindness vs confrontation. In fact, I don’t like the word confrontation. We can be in conversation with someone who thinks differently than us. But as soon as we label it a confrontation, we run the risk of being closed instead of open. The path to unity involves staying in a loving, kind, open and compassionate place so we can really see and understand the other. Many blessings for your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Liz, for your very thoughtful and wise comment. I agree with your assessment that confrontation shuts down conversation. Open-minded conversation is always our first and best avenue of connection and understanding. However, having followed the Southern Poverty Law Center’s tally of rising hate crimes, harassment and intimidation over the last two months, I fear that there may be occasions—few, I hope—where confrontation is required to stand up to hate-speak or violence in order to defend the targets of these actions. Perhaps our challenge is to find a way to confront which retains our own core values of compassion and inclusiveness. Is “loving confrontation” an oxymoron? I hope not. Thanks so much for visiting and for your thought-provoking comment!


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