“This is our time to be kind…”
– Dr. Bonnie Henry
It took me a moment to understand what I was seeing. Certainly nothing out of the ordinary: four columns of shopping baskets, stacked and sanitized, waiting for use. At the same time, however, there was something different about this.
After a few seconds, I realized the ‘something different’ was this: the top basket of each column had been arranged unlike all the others. Rather than being nestled neatly inside the containers immediately below, the top four had been pulled partway out and angled toward the anticipated user with both handgrips lifted, one resting against the other.
Placed in this way, there was no need to touch anything other than those grips. There was no need to wrestle or force or struggle in order to separate one basket from next. In this time of hand washing and physical distancing, uncertainty and concern, there was no need to do anything but grab one’s basket and walk away, carrying on with the essential task of gathering food.
My dictionary tells me that the word ‘kindness’ points toward “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Curiously enough, in the days since encountering those slanted baskets, I’ve been thinking of these qualities as I try to discern what, if any, link might exist between that experience and the practice we all share: the practice of somatic meditation.
From a meditative perspective, ‘generosity’ describes our willingness to open to a situation. ‘Friendliness’ denotes our capacity to, like any good companion, welcome a situation as it is. And to be considerate, in this context, is to consider, is to remember what we have experienced through generosity and friendliness as we step into the world.
Each of these qualities was evident in the basket incident noted above. For me, the placement of those baskets was open, receptive, and responsive to the situation at hand. This situation was, of course, a world-wide pandemic in which (1) we are all trying to minimize person-to-person transmission through surface contacts and (2) many of us are understandably anxious about touching any surfaces. All of which suggests, that that simple act was a beautiful expression of kindness.
That the person arranging those containers may or may not have been a meditator is notable. This reminds me that, while the practice of somatic meditation offers a formal means of connecting with these qualities, it does not create them. Generosity and friendliness and responsive consideration are – that is to say, kindness is – build into us as human beings. They are fundamental to who we are and, as such, they are just waiting for us to connect with and actualize them.
Also notable is the fact that this view of kindness – as any act which embodies our inherent openness, receptivity, and responsiveness – includes a far wider range of possibilities than I normally acknowledge. If it embodies these qualities, the arrangement of grocery baskets can be a manifestation of kindness, as can a steady hand during a time of crisis, as can the decision to raise one’s voice to distortion or misalignment, injustice or wrong.
Trusting all of you are doing well and taking care,