Fostering a different kind of virus

Shortly after the stay at home order was issued here in British Columbia, my Zumba instructor sent an email offering free online classes. It inspired me to think about what I could do. Since one of my passions is writing, I decided to start a blog focused on kindness.

One of the goals of the blog was to highlight people spreading kindness, the ‘infectious agents’ I believe the world needs, particularly right now. I have talked to a range of people so far: people offering dance, yoga and meditation; people creating a movement beyond the stigma of mental illness, providing midwives and healthcare workers with much needed PPE, starting a podcast to give voice to women in music. I have been struck by the humility of each person. Their initiatives grew out of a genuine desire to serve, to use their gifts to help others and therefore the world.

Zumba participants united through their love of dancing | Photo courtesy of Zabi Khan

And the impact has been profound. At first glance, offering a free Zumba class, for example, may not seem like a big endeavour, but I can personally attest to the difference it makes. Seeing the instructor’s smiling face, laughing as I sometimes fumble with the moves, uplifts me in a way that is incomparable. It brings light and joy into my day and my heart. And it creates a space from which I can, in turn, uplift others.

I have also been moved by the different interpretations people have of kindness. Each time I ask why kindness counts, another layer of its power is revealed. Some reflected on how it helps people feel useful during a time where there is a sense of powerlessness. Others highlighted that it is a coming home to our essence or emphasized making it our default setting. Feeling uncertainty, fear, a sense of helplessness under these circumstances is normal, but where do we want to channel this? Instead of unleashing these feelings in acts of anger and fear, we can choose to direct them towards creating caring and compassion.

As I devote my energy towards spreading the Kindness Virus, my stomach churns at another kind of virus spreading – that of racism, xenophobia and hate. True kindness does not discriminate. Choosing to be kind is not a selective process. It doesn’t mean I’m only kind to those I know and like or those of the same race or cultural background. It is not exclusive or exclusionary. It means I practice that way of being out in the world. It means when I see unkindness, I don’t look the other way. It may be the select few that are committing overt acts of racism and violence, but it is up to the rest of us to create an environment where this is not tolerated. And to come together and strive towards eliminating systemic inequalities that have been starkly highlighted during this period.

Safety, belonging, acceptance, respect. These are things every human being wants and deserves. Kindness means we uphold these values and create communities where the most prevalent virus is the one that builds our immunity, calms our nervous system and continues to spread to and through each and every one of us to unite rather than divide us.

The Annual Melee of Kindness run by Random Acts from May 23 to 31 provides an opportunity to focus daily on kindness and magnify it as much as possible. I am committed to participating and challenge you to do the same!

Do you know someone spreading kindness in your community? Have you seen an act of kindness you’d like to share? Get in touch! For more information, visit The Kindness Virus.

Daniela Cohen is passionate about themes of division and connection, displacement and belonging. Published in the Source Newspaper, the Canadian Immigrant online magazine and the African blog, her writing aims to open a window into worlds that may otherwise remain unseen.