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  • Writer's pictureJulie Quiroz

Accelerating Kindness

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

7.17.23 New Moon

My friend and badass organizer Maria* says the only thing she really cares about is kindness. This is both why I love her and what I hope is rubbing off on me.

As many wise people have noted, kindness is not the same as niceness. When I'm being nice I'm usually people pleasing, which is, at core, about wanting people to like me. And there's really nothing kind about that.

I'm thinking about kindness because I'm thinking about heat waves and hurricanes and smoke and floods; thinking about hospital obstetric violence with bone-chilling statistics on birthing people experiencing threats, humiliation, and coercion into cesarian surgery; thinking about my young friends here in Puerto Rico, struggling not to leave the homeland they love as they face the brutal impacts of US-imposed economic austerity policies that (along with longstanding US economic and political oppression) left Puerto Ricans so vulnerable when Hurricane Maria hit.

In other words, I'm thinking about what matters most today for our collective future.

My friend Maria has accomplished so much in the world, always putting kindness at the center. I've seen Maria move her chair to sit beside a young organizer who others were attacking for imperfect wording during a hearing. I've seen Maria tirelessly search for one person lost in the brutal US detention system. I've seen Maria gently and firmly voice truth in gatherings where the rest of us were afraid to.

Asking myself for my definition of kindness, I wrote this: Kindness is the practice of humbly engaging with others in ways that open mutual experiences of possibility, learning, connection, and transformation. I think the north star of kindness is, as my brilliant colleague Jess recently reminded us, a courageously unflinching belief that "no one is expendable." (And, of course, our capacity for kindness with others mirrors our capacity for kindness with ourselves. When the voice in my head is harshly critical, so it is with others.)

This past week I gave and received kindness, in back-to-back meetings on the same day. In the first meeting, I breathed deeply and moved my mouth to a warm smile as I offered honest feedback and suggestions to someone fumbling with their race and class privilege blinders. In the second meeting, I breathed deeply and moved my mouth to a warm smile as someone offered me honest feedback and suggestions as I fumbled with my cis/het blinders. In both cases, we needed to do real work in the near term to move forward toward a world where everyone has access to safe, loving, and dignified birth. With a practice of kindness, the possibility (and velocity) of our movement toward purpose opened rather than closed.

I hope we can accelerate our capacity for kindness, at scale.

In many ways I saw kindness at scale emerging this past week. I saw it in community birth centers coming together around a vision of mutual aid, strategizing for collective self-determination of shared resources. I saw it in philanthropic spaces re-imagining investments to value and grow community self-governance and resource stewardship. I saw it in Puerto Rican farmers practicing ancestral agriculture and growing relationships powerful enough to reclaim land and transform food systems.

From small moments to large movements, I'm cheering for the humble engagement of kindness. In the words of Leigh Green, "Niceness is about maintaining the status quo. Kindness is revolutionary."

*Maria read this post in advance and gave me permission to use her name.

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