Kindness and civility. Has anyone ever used those two terms to describe their children’s relationship with each other? I doubt it. And if they did, it would be the Chardonnay talking.
It doesn’t matter how much I try to instill the importance of being kind to the boys, apparently, it does not begin at home. I get it. No one makes you madder than your sibling. I could wind my brother up in T-minus 5 seconds — so fast that I’d have him taking a swing at me in the amount of time I could cry to mom that he was hitting me. Ah, sweet revenge.
As they get older, Will and Nick have perfected ever more creative ways to drive each other to blinding fury within nanoseconds. If it wasn’t so maddening and violence-inducing, it would be a sociological experiment in the making. Fortunately, most of the unkind behavior is forgotten until the next offense.
This does not seem to be the case in our society these days, though. When we are offended, we don’t bother to look past it. We become righteously angry and get ugly almost instantly.
When and why did this happen? What happened to actually having a conversation where I can disagree with my friend or colleague on an issue but we can talk about it in a reasonable way? Why has disagreeing become a zero-sum game? Either you’re with me or you’re against me. There is no middle ground. We no longer listen; we just wait impatiently to make our irrefutable (to us) point. And when I say “we,” I include myself. My husband and I can no more have a civil conversation about a contentious national subject then we can agree on the way the toilet paper roll goes on the holder.
Against this backdrop, the Center for a Vital Community decided to launch our Kindness and Civility Initiatives. Overly optimistic, you say? Perhaps. But if not now, when? If not us, who?
When I say us, I mean this community where we live. Why couldn’t we be the place and the people who took a breath, paused and asked clarifying questions about a statement that is contrary to our opinion? Why can’t the same people answer those questions without taking offense, learning more about why we hold that view and what it means to us?
About 60 people from all different sectors of our community spent two full days learning how to have tough conversations around hot topics. All so that we can go out to our friends, families and coworkers and model a new way of talking to each other, not at each other.
Imagine feeling comfortable and safe enough to voice your opinion about anything from gun control to your view on the city’s snow removal policies without fear of being labeled an idiot, uninformed or just plain wrong. Picture listening to someone’s opinion on tax reform or whether or not to close the Kendrick Park pool without instantly judging, labeling or dismissing. You would learn the stories behind those views and what shaped them.
This is not about listening or speaking for agreement. This is about listening and speaking for understanding. This is about leading with kindness.
As Glennon Doyle Melton says, we can do hard things. This is definitely one of those hard things. And we are the community that can and will do it. Kind and civil will be the descriptors used when referring to us.
Want to learn more? Call us at the CVC and we’ll get you up to speed. While kindness and civility may be in short supply between the brothers Albrecht at the moment, it’s easy to learn and easy to spread.
Amy Albrecht is the executive director of the Center for a Vital Community.