Kindness. 2. Don’t Be Quiet. Be Kind.

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I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, telling him about a time not long ago when someone said to me, “I didn’t have anything nice to say, so I didn’t say anything at all.”

We’ve all heard this in various forms before. I’m sure I’ve even repeated it offhand, reminding someone that it is better to be quiet than to be mean. “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That’s old. And to some extent, it’s true. If you can only think of shitty things to say, then just keep your mouth shut.

But if you can only think of shitty things to say, you have a lot of work to do. Because you can always be kind. Always.

Last week, my band performed a big show here in our little town. And watching the show was a friend who I know doesn’t particularly like my singing style. It’s not her thing, and that’s fine. But she came to the show. And you know what she said afterwards? She said, “The sound was great!”

And she was right. The sound was great. And that mattered. I love her for not just keeping quiet because the music we make isn’t her jam. She found something nice to say, to show her love and support.

Because there’s always something nice to say.

Someone got a haircut, tattoo or piercing you don’t like? Don’t say it looks like ass, because that’s douchy. And it makes it all about you. Who cares if you don’t like it? Someone’s haircut, tattoo, piercing, music, painting, and general lifestyle choices have nothing to do with you and how you feel about them. So don’t make it about you.

And don’t keep your mouth shut, because you know what? That’s also douchy.

You know she wanted to get that buzz cut. You know he wanted that rising phoenix tattoo. You know she wanted that eyebrow piercing.

Try “Hey! You finally got your hair cut! Good for you!”

Try “Wow, look at the colours in that tattoo!”

Try “I’m proud of you for finally getting that piercing. You’ve been talking about it for a long time.”

Try “Are you happy? Then I’m happy for you.” And mean it.

Someone wearing something that’s not your style? Compliment the colour.

Someone making art you don’t appreciate? Commend them for being brave, and putting their art out there for the world to judge. That’s a hard thing to do.

Someone invite you for dinner but then serve something that was barely palatable? Enjoy their company, and tell them you enjoyed their company. Thank them for their effort. Be gracious. Be kind.

Being quiet isn’t kind. Being quiet is a cop-out. Being quiet speaks volumes. Being quiet is a shitty way to be with the people in your life.

Don’t be quiet. Be kind.

When Someone Else Says It Better

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Original Artwork by Allie Brosh

I remember coming across this blog post by the insanely talented writer and artist Allie Brosh when it was first published. Everyone was all, “Allie’s back!” and I was all, “Who’s Allie?” So I started reading, and I couldn’t stop. Plus, she draws, which I can’t do for beans, so I was doubly impressed.

Allie has since had one book published, but I just found out that while her second book was to be published this month, it has been postponed indefinitely. She hasn’t posted a new blog post – or even a new tweet – in years. She kind of disappeared. I hope that she didn’t disappear into the fog of depression again. I hope that wherever she is, she’s happy and snarky and loving it.

I read “Depression Part Two” before I read “Adventures in Depression” (which could have been titled “Depression Part One” if she had known at the time there would be a Part Two.) And while the latter is exceedingly good, the former is really the best explanation of depression I’ve ever read ever ever.

I was talking to a sister-cousin-friend today, trying to explain just this very thing. And then I remembered what Allie wrote. So now sister-cousin-friend can simply read this and know what I was trying to say.

Don’t Tolerate, Celebrate.

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I grew up in a diverse city, and a lot of the kids I went to school with were either immigrants or first-generation Canadians. It was a pretty mixed bag – my group of friends growing up looked like a mini United Nations. My best friends came from Greece, Egypt, China, India, Jamaica, Japan and Iran.

Given the diversity of the population, there was a lot of talk in school about tolerance. Tolerating other cultures. Tolerating other religions. Tolerating people who didn’t look like you or eat the same food or who had a different accent. And this always rubbed me the wrong way. I never really gave it a lot of thought, but I always hated that word, and hated having those conversations. Not because they were boring. But because they felt…useless. Uninspiring. “Yes! Let’s tolerate each other!” Like, really. Is that the best we could do?

In my first week of university, I went to a mandatory frosh event that included the usual talk on diversity and inclusiveness. Except that the rad chick who gave this talk totally changed the game for me. She said, “I’m sick of hearing people talk about tolerance. I don’t want tolerance. I want celebration.”

She nailed it. Why have we been teaching tolerance all these years, when we could have been teaching celebration? What do we tolerate? Bank lineups. Traffic jams. Slow internet connections. These are things to be tolerated. Why are we lumping the humans we share the planet with into the same category as traffic jams? Why are we teaching kids that we need to put up with people who are different than us the same way we put up with long checkout lines? How do we teach kids about love, justice, inclusion and equity when the foundation for the lesson is tolerance?

What if we celebrated those who are different, instead of simply tolerating them? What if we looked at someone who doesn’t look like we look, eat like we eat, pray like we pray, or love like we love, and we got excited about it, instead of putting up with it? What if instead of enduring it, we engaged with it?

To me, tolerance looks something like this:

“Huh. So this is your holiday? Fine. Whatever. What are you eating? That’s weird. Never seen that before. It smells kinda funky. But fine. You can eat what you want, I guess. I don’t know anything about why you wear those clothes, or eat that food, or celebrate that holiday, or love that person, but fine. I guess it’s your right. I’ll be over here. Let me know when it’s over.”

To me, celebration looks something like this:

“Wow! So amazing! Show me! Teach me! I want to know all about this! How did it start? Where did it come from? What does it mean to you? Can I do it to? What does it taste like? Can I try it? Those clothes are so interesting – is there any cultural significance to that? How can I participate? I’d love to try something new. I’d love to learn something new.”

Tolerating people is really setting the bar so low, humans. We can do so much better. We can love so much better.