I was all for the "Pay it Forward" movement. The idea that if someone did something for you, you did something for someone else, like pay for their Starbucks, is lovely. My son and I had fun secretly paying for the pizza ordered by the car behind us at Little Ceasar's one afternoon. I still enjoy doing that on occasion, but I've been a little disconcerted by the impression that kindness is a transaction. An exchange of goods or services. A crying student in my office who says, "But I was nice to him!"
I can see where the confusion came in, especially with all the pandemic isolation and political anger. Kindness, however, is not a transaction. It never has been. Kindness is an act of love. Love of people. Someone in need, and you help. Someone in pain, and you comfort. When you love someone, even your neighbor who likes to blare their music at the crack of dawn, it's unconditional. It's not about what they can do for you; it's about what you can do for them. When you give a blanket to a homeless person, it's an act of love. If you expect that homeless person to follow you about singing your praises, that's a transaction.
Back when dinosaurs walked the earth and electricity wasn't even a thing, kindness was how you created a community. People in a group would come together to help each other. That is simply what they did. No agenda, no transactional conversation, just...kindness. Neighbors would arrive from all over the area to help a farmer build a barn, and their wives and children would ride along to help It meant a lot for a farmer to take a day off of working their own fields to help build a barn.
Over the past two years, people have forgotten that they are part of a community. Part of a neighborhood. Part of a church. Part of a team. We have been isolated for so long that we began to focus on a "what is in it for me?" view of the world. Transactional. This behavior was encouraged by the anger and rage of the adults, and we all bear some responsibility for that when it comes to our children. I have had many conversations with my own child about this topic; he needed a reminder to be kind to everyone, even if they weren't kind back.
I decided that kindness isn't a transaction; it's a ninja. Ninjas do not expect anyone to give them anything back; mostly because they were assassins, but let's turn a negative into a positive. Be a ninja, who steps in quietly, makes another person feel loved, and then is gone, without any expectation of reward or adoration. Be a kindness ninja.
You can wear the fancy ninja outfit, if you want.