Every visit to my grandparents’ house ended with the same ritual: after numerous hugs and kisses goodbye, my brother and I got into the backseat of my parent’s Oldsmobile and my grandmother took her place at the front door.
As our car slowly made its way down the rural New England road, my grandmother waved, and my brother and I waved back, twisting in our seats to keep waving as long as we could out the back window. And every time, as we reached the corner that would take us out of sight, my grandmother ceased her waving, brought both hands to her face, kissed them and then threw her hands out toward us as far as she could reach.
It wasn’t like releasing a dove into the air; it had a determination and force behind it like a fastball. She wasn’t blowing a kiss; she was launching a bit of her spirit toward my brother and me to catch and capture in our hearts. A person’s spirit isn’t a finite thing that will deplete if shared; it is an endless pool of light and every drop of it is meant to shine upon the world.
I think of that now as we sit in our homes, many alone, with no family to keep us company. Nursing homes and retirement homes have ceased allowing visitors. No family or friends to hug or hold a hand, or have a single moment of physical contact. We humans are social creatures. The physical connection to one another is a big thing for us. It changes our very chemistry. And yet…
A physical touch is not essential for love. It is not necessary for kindness. We humans are social creatures, but we’re also magical beings. We are capable of touching the lives of others without ever leaving the room. Our spirit can defy roadblocks, cross oceans, and isn’t even bound by time itself.
Ask any artist: their paint carries their soul. Ask a writer: their heart is on every page. Ask a musician: their instrument is the launchpad for their spirit to take flight.
But artists aren’t the only ones who can set their spirit free. We all possess the ability; we just never realized it because we’ve been able to move our bodies where our heart yearns for them to go. We no longer have that luxury, but that doesn’t mean we are trapped in solitude. Our souls have always been free to fly.
Technology is giving us a myriad of ways to break the confines of our homes: we can make a phone call, do a video chat, write an email, there are probably even virtual reality apps we can use to join up with friends in a virtual park.
But those are just the mechanics to make us feel more physically close. The real magic, the most powerful way to let our souls free is through spreading hope and joy with friends, with family, and with strangers. It can be hard to find in these troubling times, but the light is always inside you just waiting to shine.
Every act of kindness is a pathway for that light to reach the world. There are so many paths to choose from: foster a pet whose guardian is ill; tend to a garden; send a card of encouragement to another solitary home dweller, or send thank you cards to those working the front lines; make a call to say hello and listen to another’s stories; send books to children in need; donate to a charity; organize the creation or distribution of protective equipment. The possibilities are endless.
Walking Tucker late at night to avoid crowds, I found the sidewalks covered in hope. Notes of encouragement, friendly hello’s, and drawings of hearts and rainbows and other expressions were etched upon the path and in neighbors’ driveways using colored chalk. Someone (or many someones) had reached through the void of solitude, and left a bit of their light on the concrete for me—or anyone—who needed to smile.
That’s what kindness is: shining the light of your soul for others to see by.
Whether you are alone, or with another person, loneliness can be as destructive and dangerous as any virus. But we can overcome it by connecting—by setting our souls free to fly. Have a video chat, and your smile will reach your loved one; write a letter, and the words will carry your spirit; play a song, and your soul fills the air.
While staying at home is a physical obstacle we face in order to keep our bodies healthy, it can take a toll on our emotions. But we need to remember the power of the fire inside us. If it seems to be going out, it’s only lacking the oxygen to breathe. Launch it from yourself like a flare.
For inspiration, check out any good news websites such as Good News Network, InspireMore.com, or DailyGood.org, or watch videos like John Krasinski’s Some Good News. The internet is vast; search and you will find some unique websites where hope and compassion is always the lead story.
And if you feel the darkness starting to creep in, please reach for a lifeline. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is still operating. If you prefer not to verbalize, or in a situation where you can’t talk, Crisis Text Line is there for you as well.
Stay safe, and shine on, so you can continue to alight the world with your kindness.
Stephanie Wescott is a freelance writer whose mission is to save animals’ lives through story. Although she hails from New England and resides in Southern California, you’ll mostly likely find her somewhere in between on the open road with her canine companion Tucker, searching for trails to hike and stories to tell. You can follow their tracks and read their tales at www.alltuckeredout.org.