Friday, February 20, 2009

You Must Be Kind

I was talking to a friend tonight about the kinds of things old friends sit around and discuss over a bottle or two of wine, such as friendship, how it grows, how it's formed, and what holds it together. He asked me what I instinctively look for in a friendship, what separates it from mere acquaintanceship for me. He knows me well enough to know I can count my deep connections on one hand and the rest range in superficial to moving up the food chain of my heart.

I sang him one answer from Uncle John's Band, which he joined in and sang with me: "what I want to know is are you kind?"

Our connection has always been a literary feasting of souls and we share a love of many of the same books that range from classics that we struggled through in college and then learned to love as grown-ups, all the way to current well put together bits and pieces we find on the web and send to each other.

We "met" at an online book club over ten years ago that discussed one book a month for an entire month. After a time you begin to see patterns of discussion emerging and ours always crossed paths. I reminded him of the quote that he posted when we were reading  Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater "There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."

And truly, kindness is the base of any friendship for me because it allows a person to step outside of themselves, out of their own needs and selfishness and focus on someone else. It allows them to give, to heal, to nurture, to support, to hear and listen and love. Without kindness all those wonderful things are just empty words.

Kindness prevents the kind of malicious and mean gossip that is so prevalent among many small communities and eats away at it from within. Kindness nourishes tolerance so others are accepted for who they are rather than what they can do for you. Kindness allows a generosity of spirit that allows a person to give of themself as naturally as they give to themselves. Kindness prevents war and violence because it won't allow you to inflict cruelty, pain and suffering on another living creature. Kindness simply makes a human being whole, because without it, we are nothing more than a sort of societal leech that always takes and never gives back.

So, yes, the base of the friendship pyramid for me is kindness as I don't ever see myself being satisfied with a friendship that is less than that. It would be meaningless for me, empty, unsatisfying. It would not be worthy of the title of friendship.

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