Sometimes the self-driven life of an indie artist seems extensively trivial.
Like when you turn on the news and hear about the beheading of 21 people. Or when you realize you never really heard about all of the young girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Or that no one really talked about how on the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, 31 people were killed in a terrorist bombing in Yemeni.
And here I am, peddling cds and digital downloads and concert tickets and urging you to be excited about my next music video.
Feels a bit unimportant. Even though the goal is to connect with people and let them know they’re not alone. People are dying, and I’m singing.
Then you start to think, “What can I DO? In what way can I make an impact? In what way can I really, truly help?” And then you start to feel…helpless. At least I do.
I was thinking about it today, when I was out shoveling the snow from my parents’ driveway. It has been quite some time since I’ve had to deal with shoveling out, other than some brief moments over Christmas holidays, or a light cleaning off of the car on tour. Perks of being based on the Golden Coast.
But today was a beautiful, sunny day, and the snow was shimmering in the light.
And I was thinking about Isis. And the young women. And for some reason then, as I looked at a shovel-full of snow, I thought about 2008.
My father had to have emergency heart surgery and we had a snow storm. I remembered what a trying, scary time that was. And how our neighbor across the street shoveled out our driveway and sidewalks so that we could get to and from the hospital without thinking twice about the logistics of dealing with the snow.
As I came out of the memory, I realized I had stood up from that hunched-over shoveling stance and was smiling.
That was such a nice thing they did. I had forgotten. But at the time, I was so grateful. I then also remembered that they would take the trashcans in from the street for my mom over the next few weeks. Just small, but kind and unknowingly impactful things they did that made our lives easier when we needed it most.
So my mind moved to how important it is to lend a hand to your neighbor, your friend, and the strangers that pass through your life for a brief moment. Or be patient with the frazzled mother with the young kids who needs directions and is holding up the grocery line.
Be kind to yourself when you’ve had a hard week, and be kind to others because you really don’t know what is happening in their lives. And when you do know, be even kinder. Because the small kindnesses are not as small as you’d think, and that oh-so-talked about ripple effect is real. What would have happened if I had to dig out in order to get to my parents at the hospital? I don’t know, and I’m grateful. That was seven years ago, and though I can’t pointedly tell you how, it contributed to the path that I am currently on, and was a reminder for me, in the moment and today, about the goodness in people.
My brain snapped back to Isis. And I looked up at the neighbor’s house.
Small kindnesses. Do they change the terrible things that are happening in the world?
Not in the grand way we’d like to have things work.
But if the horror we feel about the hostility others are inflicting comes from an innate understanding of how we should be treating each other, maybe we can, at the very least, incorporate more of what we know we should be doing into our daily lives.
Because the more I stood there in the bright but bitter cold afternoon, the more all I could hear was a quote from a songwriter we call Jewel.
“In the end, only kindness matters.”
If that is the goal, then it can only happen if we are all conscious of it, and putting it out there into the world. Even if we aren’t the individuals directly fighting against those inflicting pain.
But each of us can fight hostility indirectly, and piece by piece, person by person, we can create a kinder world.
I laughed when I realized I had boiled my thoughts down to a quote from a song.
I’ll file that reminder away for the next time I am feeling like being a songwriter is trivial.
Does it ease the glaring awareness of my inability to be physically present, helping those kidnapped girls, or those inured people? It doesn’t.
But I know connecting with words and music is extremely powerful. So I’ll keep working to do just that. And I’ll remember to be kinder, in the small ways, not just the big ones.