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Britta Gustafson: Small acts of kindness are more valuable than ever

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

Have you ever had someone make or break your day?

Small acts of kindness or inconsiderate behavior are proven to have a ripple effect. And in an era where social distancing can be misinterpreted as an opportunity for antisocial behavior, those small acts of kindness are more valuable than ever.

Only months ago, it would have seemed ridiculous that we might become divisive over our free will to try to stay healthy, particularly in a town that truly values the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. But now, watching our nation come undone has become the essence of our daily news feed and it seems that protecting ourselves and those around us has a stigma attached.

Divide and conquer, an age-old military strategy to fracture a foe from within as a means to diminish its strength, seems to be at play even on a micro level.

And in our tiny town it feels as if we might be slipping into allowing our changes in social behavior to become polarizing. Yet, isn’t this the time to strengthen our herd? Because although the herd seems to be heading in different directions, perhaps all acts of neighborly kindness, community care and efforts to feel compassion for those in our closest sphere might be our greatest ally in helping us all to navigate this new era.

The noun, verb, adverb, adjective “socially distant” will likely mark a firm distinction between the before and after of this virus. It entered our daily conversation at the same time as a full-time shift from what many of us believed to be a gregarious future; a time when all people, whether we love them or consider them as strangers, became threats.

I’ve noticed an uptick in general irritability toward those around us, even here in Snowmass Village, and it seems to be increasing as we continue to roll out the red carpet for visitors. From heightened concern about an approaching dog on a trail, to the in-your-face attitudes of anti-maskers toward those who feel the need to respect others. What is happening to that small town warmth I’ve always loved here?

It seems that guidelines are proving divisive, even as we crave leadership. Many actually appear to delight in breaking the rules. Some make a show of having gatherings, shaking hands, complaining loudly about this propagated “hoax of a virus” while they are out and about. While others step away from one another with a completely new involuntary aversion, avoiding eye contact with the implicit question, maybe you are a carrier?

Our daily human interactions as a result of this virus have become emotionally charged and feelings of self preservation and economic outrage seem to be braided together and are at the hilt of our brandished frustrations.

I wonder, will these antisocial attitudes linger beyond this medical emergency, outlasting the life of this virus and affecting our sense of community?

The feelings we are experiencing now might very well become part of the emotional vocabulary through which we understand and experience future social situations. And if we are not exceptionally careful now, the negative emotions may linger or re-emerge at a future time.

We could provide an alternative narrative for our community, alternative memories of how we came together. We could make an effort to let go of the little things that just annoy us and try harder to relax unnecessary complaints while encouraging as much care and kindness as possible.

We could approach each encounter with an extra layer of neighborly care and respect the health-safety choices others are making, whether we are worried or not. The space between us might be 6 feet, but that distance doesn’t need to tear us apart.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.


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