Back in the ‘80s, when AIDS was a whispered mystery in my part of the world, my aunt had “gentlemen friend” neighbors. One of them, we knew, was very sick. The other one dutifully walked their dog and often stopped to chat with my aunt. She noticed that he wore a suit and tie to walk the dog, even on the weekends. He explained that he dressed up every day for his friend, who found solace in the sight and probably in the spirit which underlay the effort.
Hearing the story from my aunt, I was moved by the kindness and dignity of the gesture. When all hope is gone, to have the fortitude to continue tending to the smallest detail— heart-breaking and heart-warming. I wrote a poem about it at the time, and when many years later, I saw a call for poems about kindness, I submitted that poem. “Heroics” won Honorable Mention and has been published in the anthology, The Best of Kindness 2017, Jan & Kevin Keough, Editors, Origami Poems Project. Mary Ann Mayer judged.
In his 2015 collection of biographical essays and commentary, The Road to Character, David Brooks calls for widespread moral renewal. Anybody hear Plutarch, writing his Parallel Lives at the beginning of the 2nd Century A.D., snicker: “Good luck with that!” Anyhow, Brooks uses Google Books Ngram Viewer (which I had never heard of before, but check it out. It searches and measures the usage of any word of your choosing over the course of decades). Accordingly, Brooks notes a big increase in the vocabulary of business, economics and personal “I” words and a decrease in the language of morality. We are not seeing bravery, gratitude, humbleness, and you guessed it, kindness, as much as we used to.
Which makes Jan and Kevin’s efforts to publish this anthology all the more heroic! And makes the likelihood I will find a market for my etymology poem, with the unimaginative title “Kindness,” any time soon!