Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Kindness can be infectious too

Oedipus Cursing his Son Polynices, by Henry Fuseli (National Gallery of Art)
     Anger, too, is infectious. You might not be mad at all, but someone else is, and yells at you. Instantly you're mad, too. You tend to yell back.
     But calm also can be infectious. Kindness too, and here is an example to back that up, something from the email reaction to yesterday's column. In fact, the very first response, Monday evening, from Matt S.—he used his full name, but I'll shield it:
     "I read your article about maintaining a sense of humor and want to say that you are really a pathetically snarky person. No, you aren’t an optimist. You’re just an asshole."
      Maybe because he telegraphed his intent—the subject heading was "what a dick article"—I was prepared.  My reply was in full cross-legged-on-a-lotus-blossom mode:
"But polite. Thanks for writing Matt."
     That usually would be the end of it, or if someone did reply, they'd just take the trowel and ladle on more. But Matt, perhaps feeding off my zen, caught himself:
"I’m sorry. I hate anything political in these times, the memes, etc.. i lean right and found myself backing up JB Pritzker today to someone of my ilk, and had to say “Jesus, dude, put politics to the side for 5 minutes”. this whole thing sucks."
     That seemed sincere, and I tried to respond in kind:
     "No argument here. In my defense, I had a big package about a young guy fighting Stage 4 colon cancer ready to go—I feel less like writing about this virus stuff than you feel like reading it. But all the virus news pushed it out of the paper about 2 p.m.—a long, complicated story, now running Sunday—and I had to whip something together in half an hour, so I grabbed some tweets and retro-fitted them. We're all on edge lately. And thanks for the apology. Very rare in this day and age. Sorry the column struck a wrong chord. Stay safe."
     His reply was:
"You too, man. Young guy with stage 4 colon cancer? geez. we are all lucky to just be freaked with germ paranoia and hand washing ocd.
I look forward to reading that article for some perspective. Please add any info if he needs help with medical bills."
      From calling me an asshole to pulling out his wallet to help with medical bills for someone I was writing writing about. All in the span of 10 minutes. People do cover the spectrum, don't they? I thanked him and said the guy works for the federal government, so his bills are covered.
     This crisis, it will bring out the good and bad in people before it is over. Wouldn't it be something if it was remembered more for the good than the bad? It's still possible. Stay safe out there. Keep an eye on one another.


  1. Wonderful. I can't agree more that it would really be something if this crisis were remembered more for the good than the bad, but...


  2. I guess I may be that projection of calm. Really unintentionally, mind you.

    My research-oriented jobs for the last 40 years have been in sparsely populated technical areas to begin with as well as in lightly populated buildings. So social distancing was something I had thrust upon me before it was cool.

    Please keep up the writing, sir. I find myself glad to know that your voice is in the daily paper, much the way I used to seek out Royko's columns. Don't know how you'll take that, but I truly mean it as a compliment.

  3. Nice column. But to be called a dick and an a-hole in almost the same sentence is like the daily double of compliments.


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