birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


What does it mean to be kind?

Can the same behavior, the same actions, demonstrate kindness or cruelty depending on the situation? Is it possible for what one person experiences as cruelty be experienced as cruelty, or indifference, by someone else?

How do we determine, in the moment, what is the best way to act kindly in this situation, with this person?

People typically like to see their own actions as kind, even when other people might experience them as unkind. Part of the reason for that is we understand kindness in terms of our own needs and desires. We treat people the way we think we would like to be treated, even when we do not see life the way they see it.

We are more likely to be kind when we listen to other peoples’ stories and see situations from their perspectives. It is difficult to appreciate what kindness is when we cannot put ourselves in someone else’s place.

Kindness reminds me of the stories of children in school who put a cocoon in a jar to observe a butterfly emerge. Some children, trying to be kind, started a small opening in the side of the cocoon to help the butterfly emerge. They did not know that the process of struggling to emerge from the cocoon strengthens the butterfly. Working its way out gives a butterfly the strength it will need to fly.

Trying to be kind makes the butterfly incapable of living its normal life.

Communication and empathy are essential elements of kindness. We cannot impose kindness on anyone else.