The Simple Difference: Kindness in Crisis

Becky KeifeBy Becky Keife7 Minutes

Excerpt from The Simple Difference: How Every Small Kindness Makes a Big Impact by Becky Keife

Fred Rogers famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Social media isn’t usually the first place I think to look for helpers.

Just scroll Facebook and you’ll likely be bombarded with divisive messages from both sides of the political divide. Text-shouting and name-calling have become more common than pop-up ads. Commenters tearing down others from behind the safety of their device screens. No matter what the issue is, there always seem to be reckless and ruthless attackers poised at their keypads. There’s a whole lot online to tempt us to lose hope in humanity. Yet when a crisis hits, the internet also provides a beautiful portal into the lives of good, kind, difference-making people.

In the wake of COVID-19, you didn’t have to look far to find the helpers. My Instagram feed became a scrolling chronicle of kindness. Like Operation We Can Sew It, story after story emerged of how individuals were doing what they could with what they had right where they were. A landlord waived rent for his tenants. A popular blogger set up a spreadsheet for people in her online community to share their needs while others rallied to meet them. Kids armed with chalk took to the sidewalks, coloring rainbows and messages of hope and encouragement so that neighbors and dog walkers might remember that they weren’t alone.

Lord, as I go on my way, have Your way with me has been our simple difference prayer. But what does that look like when physically going places totally changes? How is intentional kindness possible if we’re no longer crossing paths with strangers at the ball game, meeting up with friends for dinner, or working side by side with colleagues? How do we make an impact if our daily path is primarily within the perimeter of our own property or the four walls of our apartment? Maybe these questions go through your mind all the time, not just in the face of quarantine and social distancing. If your mobility is restricted because of health issues, geography, or finances, you know how it feels when “going on your way” is limited.

One of the gifts—if we choose to see it—of times of crisis, seasons of transition, or unexpected circumstances is that they require us to think creatively about being kind.

I don’t know what the world is like right now as you hold this book in your hands. But when schools and stores were closed, church was online, nonessential workers were working from home, and death and disease were rampant around the world—the power of small (and big) kindness was very much alive!

The helpers were helping. Ripples of the simple difference were making waves.

A story of kindness from my local Trader Joe’s has been circling my city. As they frequently do, a checker asked a customer how things were going. The customer mentioned that a relative of hers in New York had just passed away from COVID. The checker excused herself and returned with a bouquet of yellow roses. The checker also asked the customer if she liked dark chocolate before grabbing some and adding it to her bag. Right where she was, this employee made sure the person in front of her knew that she was seen.

My friend Robin is an empty nester in Georgia. She baked sourdough bread and delivered a loaf along with a roll of toilet paper to every one of the eighteen homes in her small neighborhood. “It was a good excuse to get to know my neighbors,” she told me. My friend Logan lives in South Carolina. She drove her two school-age sons to their old neighborhood, and they colored the walkway of their ninety-something former neighbors. Bright chalk in geometric squares is another way to remind someone who is homebound that you care.

Yes, a crisis can open our eyes to how much we belong to each other. Whether we live next door or across town, several states away, or around the world, we can find simple, practical ways to love our neighbors well. I saw a post on Facebook about someone who gave an elderly neighbor, who lives alone, three pieces of colored paper: green, red, and yellow. If green is posted in the window, she knows all is well. Yellow means they need help, like an errand. Red signals an emergency. “Let’s all look out for and help each other!” the post said. Amen.

In Kansas, Danielle Garver and her daughter Addison made a simple difference in the lives of some residents in the Winfield Senior Living Community using a little time, creativity, and a roll of blue painter’s tape. The mother-and-daughter duo created tic-tac-toe squares with tape on large windows, playing the simple game as they stood outside while residents pulled up wheelchairs on the inside. The Garver girls didn’t have any personal connection with the senior community. They just wanted to bring a smile to someone’s face at a safe social distance.

These stories all share a common thread: use what you have where you have it.

Be creative. Be simple. Be bold. Be intentionally kind.

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