More than a handful of the pieces that comprise the first three Stone Gathering Readers have to do with kindness. That’s not surprising, I suppose, since Stone Gathering was named after my grandchildren’s habit of finding, painting, and giving away kindness rocks. And since kindness is so central to our mission at Danielle Dufy Literary, I wanted to find a way to celebrate World Kindness Day with you all. And since I don’t have additional permission from contributors to reprint any of their pieces online, I’ll post something I wrote: it’s my Afterword to the Winter issue. I hope you enjoy it!
Kindness in Winter by Deborah Jacobs
Are we more kind in winter? I think we are. In times of scarcity and hardship? Yes, we are. Even when darkness outlasts light? Yes. In spring we may be more exuberant, for sure; in summer more glorious; in fall more colorful. But in winter? We are more kind.
Here in Minnesota, winter can begin in November and last until April: and, while I don’t care for the cold, snow, or ice, I do love the spirit of it all. Because for me (at least until it becomes a cabin-feverish-hanging-on-by-my-fingernails-waiting-for-spring marathon), winter is the season of giving, of generosity, of kindness.
It’s no coincidence that winter is bracketed by and peppered with holidays of giving–whether it’s the giving of food, gifts, light, hope, or love. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa, from New Year’s Eve to Chinese New Year, from Valentine’s Day to Easter which (whether you’re Christian or not) signifies–with its chicks and bunnies, eggs and gift baskets, flowers and all that color(!)–the great nourishing gift of Spring itself: the promise of life, the end of scarcity.
But first, winter–our season to give, even in scarcity, perhaps because of scarcity. Do we have more fellow feeling, are we more protective of each other, more sheltering and nourishing of each other when it seems more necessary? when perhaps we feel mutually vulnerable? We are. And despite our furnaces humming along, our super-thick insulation, our heated autos (and auto seats!); despite our Ugg boots, our moisture-wicking long undies, our extra scarves and mittens; despite our heated garages, our plowed and salted and sanded roads; despite our local (or big box, or online) stores with plentiful groceries at the ready–we humans can’t quite shake our primal sense of winter as a threat, a threat we share with our fellow humans.
It’s part of our human DNA, after all; it’s in our genes to worry about winter. But so, it seems, is the generosity of spirit that kicks in, that seems automatically to accompany winter’s more spare aspects; there’s a settling in of kindness that seems as natural as the settling in of a new season.
There’s a whole school of thought that argues our age of excess, of rampant consumerism is rendering us (especially us Americans) less capable of generosity, less inclined toward kindness. It says because we have too much, and yet never enough, we’ve grown too cautious, too selfish to be generous. Those arguments sure sound like they could be true. But I don’t entirely buy them. My evidence? The human in winter.
We plow out a neighbor or bring in her wood; we sew quilts for the homeless, knit hats for newborns, stock the local food pantry, give books for shut-ins to enjoy; we lend someone our elbow on the ice, invite people in for hot chocolate or hot toddies, read to each other before the fire, make and bake, and make and bake some more. These are great kindnesses, large and small–necessary kindnesses, especially now. And they’re coming soon to a winter near you.