Power to the Person

As of today, I added something to my daily to-do list. I am calling it my DSK errand, which stands for Do Something Kind. Anyone can adopt it.

DSK is in response to the pervasive negativity and unkindness of our new president. I was in such genuine existential despair the other day, after reading/hearing his latest verbal assaults on various world leaders, dedicated public servants, Civil Rights veterans, film stars, ambassadors, women leaders he doesn’t find hot, that I didn’t know what to do to feel better and to counter his hatreds that have already colored the lives of so many people.

After working in the morning, I took a break and just wandered Manhattan for a couple of hours, as I often do. I usually wind up at certain, predictable locales as if I am one big Ouija board piece being propelled along by some unknown force. I found myself yesterday, as I frequently do, at a large and bright furniture store downtown, where I like to go to see and occupy their room displays. I look at the handsome furnishings and decorative objects arrayed in faux rooms and am both inspired by the suggestions of other ways to live life in my small apartment, but also a bit defeated about how to do so in New York, where life is nearly prohibitively expensive. I hold plump magenta-colored throw pillows in my arms and sit in upholstered rockers thinking how simple objects can so significantly change your day to day life—just as a simple DSK can do so, and with the added benefit that another person benefits, too. A DSK is always available at two for the price of one.

I resent our new president because he is an unkind man who has now come into my daily life and will likely be there for years to come. I always seek out kind people in my life and avoid those who are not. Like the schoolyard bully hollering on the playground, throwing rocks, and whose voice rises over those of the others playing their games together or just being friends with one another, he can’t be ignored. I wish I didn’t have to live with him on the playground or have him lurking around the corner in my neighborhood (metaphorically and actually, since his residence is close by). There is no principal’s office to which he can be sent for being mean to others.

Never before has a man in power had this effect on my daily life. We have all had bad bosses who make daily work life unpleasant. But we often have the power to remedy that situation: leave the job and leave that person behind.

Our new president is where he is not because he earned it or deserves it. Ronald Reagan was unkind when he refused to even the utter word “AIDS” when so many people here in New York, friends of mine then, coworkers, were dying of it. That was that president’s most unkind act, but, generally, he was not unkind on a daily basis, at least publically. Now, we have a man who is unkind all the time, vocally, and I wish I could shut the window to drown him out. How dare he infect my daily life with his negativity or what might even be considered nihilism.

My first DSK act? Oh, it was so small that it barely counts (helping a writer friend, Lisa Davis, promote her forthcoming first book about a little-known historical figure)—and maybe that is the best way to look at and live life in America now. On a micro level. I wish I had the power and vision to exact change on a macro level—like a Martin Luther King or the original Suffragettes. But there is something supremely satisfying, immediately discernible, about being able to perform a simple, small act of kindness, a DSK that is, at first, barely measurable. It is empowering that a DSK is always do-able. There is no record of our new president having done anything kind in his life, so every time any one of us can do something for someone else, we are negating his negativity. That is power.

What else might be some of my future DSKs? Take a friend to dinner who is a recent widow. Buy a birthday present for one of my former Chinese students, who I had helped to learn English. Pull the heavy store grate down again for the elderly woman in my neighborhood who owns a small antiques shop. I don’t know what else yet, but that makes DSKs exciting and fun. They are a way to be optimistic and creative. A DSK is easily accomplished and requires very little time or expense. To counter a new daily unkindness in life, a DSK is my remedy, and yours, I hope.

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