Words: Maryam Elhabashy
Be decent. Be generous. Be kind. These are the types of characteristics that we are taught to strive towards. One would think that they are time-tested and true. But one could argue that the way we communicate in the 21st century is changing the standards of what kindness is.
Not too long ago, if you wanted to express a feeling of gratitude or appreciation towards a person, it was through something called a letter. Believe it or not, the letters were actually handwritten. They were pieces of cardstock paper, drawn on either by an artist, or, if you were an overachiever, you’d draw it yourself. Home-made was more thoughtful – more kind. Customarily, at the end of the letter was the signature: “love,” “yours truly,” or “sincerely.” A few days later (yes… days) if the sender was lucky, the recipient would receive the letter. Back then, a mere two generations ago, a part of your heart was laid out on the page, because communication was fewer and farther between, and was a reflection of effort.
Let’s visit the present. Now, if you want to express a feeling of gratitude or appreciation to someone, it’s through an e-card, an email, or a text. Of course, the signatures have changed too: “Luh youuuu *4 heart emojis!!!” “Thanks babe *3 kiss emojis!!!” or “ILY BOO *5 wink emojis!!!” If you’re an over achiever, you’ll do multiple lines of the designated emoji. If you’re a complete nerd that has no life, you’ll write the letter.
The death of the hand-written letter is just a drop in the bucket. It’s not just the way we communicate. It’s our perspective that has changed. With “acts of a kindness” giveaways from the likes of Oprah, Ellen, and most recently, a Canadian airline (with nearly 22 million YouTube views in just five days!), walking an old lady across the street is chump change in terms of 21st century kindness.
And so the days progress and people’s understanding of kindness might easily be altered. Is that really what we want? Can “gifts” of kindness be free? A smile? A service? A thought? And maybe, just maybe, we might turn off our phones for a few minutes, pull out a pen and paper, and write an unabridged sentence telling someone how much we love and appreciate them.