Everywhere I turn, I see messages admonishing people to be kind. It’s on T-shirts, bumper stickers, church signs and memes.
Does anyone else think it’s weird that people have to be told to be kind? Is this new? Or not?
Glen Campbell was a huge star when I was a kid. He was on TV and in movies, and he was all over the record charts. Coincidentally he was the first musician I went to see in concert (at Stokely Athletic Center on the University of Tennessee campus). My mom bought tickets for me and my best friend as a present for my 10th birthday.
One of his many hits was “Try a Little Kindness,” which landed on the Billboard Country, Adult Contemporary and Hot 100 charts in 1969. Campbell didn’t write the song – it was the work of Curt Sapaugh and Bobby Austin – but it fit his personality perfectly.
“You’ve got to try a little kindness/Yes, show a little kindness/Just shine your light for everyone to see/And if you try a little kindness/Then you’ll overlook the blindness/Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets.”
So apparently this “be kind” reminder has been necessary for more than 50 years. It’s just that the lack of kindness has been blatant during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, it seems as though some people have lost their minds.
I cringe thinking about the Rutherford County school board meeting where adults threatened board members and their families. Or the school board meeting where a teenager whose grandmother died of Covid was heckled for supporting mask mandates. Or the principal whose office was invaded by a father and two buddies armed with tactical zip ties because his son was one of several students who had been exposed to Covid and subsequently was required to wear a mask.
I’m shocked by the airline passengers responding belligerently to flight attendants asking them to wear masks. Some of them have behaved so poorly that they’ve caused flight delays because the pilots have had to roll back to the gate to put them off. And let’s not even get into the craziness of a woman who was late for a flight who told gate attendants that there was a bomb in her already-loaded luggage.
The pandemic didn’t create rudeness, but it hasn’t helped. I fell for a click-bait article recently about the 25 rudest states just because I was compelled to see if Tennessee was on the list. Thankfully, we were not, but I had to click all the way through just to be certain. So thanks to my rude fellow citizens who made me lose faith in my beloved state; you wasted a big chunk of my time. (Sorry, was that unkind?)
Kindness is a no-brainer, as I see it. It’s a baseline. It’s a path of least resistance, at least in my world. Smiling at people improves my mood. Complimenting someone, being pleasant to an overworked cashier or restaurant employee, holding a door, picking up something someone has dropped, letting a shopper with a couple of items slip in front of my full shopping cart – it’s really not a burden; it’s a blessing.
If you disagree, just give it a try. If you’re not susceptible to Glen Campbell’s golden tones, maybe you’ll get more out of actor Peter Weller’s wisdom as the iconic title character in “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” (1984):
“Don’t be mean. We don’t have to be mean, ’cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”
Betsy Pickle is a veteran reporter and editor who occasionally likes to share her opinions with KnoxTNToday readers.