Killed With Kindness

I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with my life when I want to cry whenever someone is nice to me. I came home around 8 pm tonight – rather late for dinner by grandparent standards I thought, but they had a plate all ready for me. They chatted with me about Japanese customs on everything from New Years to burial rites. They even showed me the little shrine they have in their house. They also showed me some important kanji like “Sapporo” and “Hokkaido.” Then I showed them my last name and they were very impressed and so we talked about where Japanese names come from. Fukushi comes from Aomori and is apparently also a samurai name. And over the course of our conversation I couldn’t help but feel a bit choked up. Maybe it’s the talk of the Japan that calls to me – less heated toilets and cell phones that you can buy snacks from vending machines with and more culture and customs. But I really think that I’m just overwhelmed by the fact that, for what seems to be no apparent reason, they are really, genuinely nice to me. Recently, I’ve come to believe that kindness needs to be earned. I suppose that this is true, but what I mean is that I’ve come to think that people need a reason to be nice. If people are nice to you, it means they want something, and as soon as they get it, they can stop being nice. And they can put conditions on their being nice to you. Maybe kindness doesn’t need to be earned. Friendship, perhaps, needs to be earned, but people should just be nice to each other because it’s the right thing to do. As far as I can tell, the grandparents don’t want anything from me, except maybe my occasional company. They don’t seem to have any hoops for me to jump through in order to be worthy of their kindness. They feed me and talk to me just “because”.

During Sr. Retreat, we were asked to describe our rooms and then talk about how the things in our room reflected our values. My room is pink, with a lot of light colored wood and antique white furniture. There are stuffed animals and figurines and plates everywhere. My wallpaper has dancing teddy bears on it. Looking at my room, you’d never guess that a 20 year old lived there. When I told people this, they were absolutely shocked. Especially since I’d just finished my apathy speech (see “Zombies in the Cafeteria” for details). I told them that I thought the decor of my room meant that I valued innocence (I am, after all, the Unicorn). That I felt it was important to maintain one’s childish sense of wonder. To know that miracles are real. To believe that the world and the people in it are fundamentally good. To feel, in James’s words, that “people are love.” This is why I will marvel at the wind that dries out my eyes and messes up my hair every time a train arrives, even though I know the physics behind it. It’s the reason I love biology. The reason I want to cry when I hold Teddy. I think I’ve stopped believing these things that I’ve based my whole life around and it makes my life seem meaningless and empty in my eyes. And I think that that is why I want to cry when the grandparents are so kind to me, when I have done nothing for them. Their small acts of kindness remind me that there is still good-old-fashioned goodness in the world. That I was not wrong. And instead of feeling relief, I feel sadness that what it all boils down to is that I have lost my innocence. That the little girl is gone and that in her place is a too-soon-made jaded, world-weary skeptic. And I think it is the little girl that I want to cry for.

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