How are you? Did you find everything okay?

I’ve been meaning to call. Let’s get together soon.

We ask questions without wanting to know the answers and suggest things which we don’t intend to prioritize. These are the exchanges we’re all accustomed to and guilty of. They’re the standard lines and empty promises with which we’re far too familiar.

We’ve come to expect meaningless, sugar-coated sentiments and are off-put when met with raw and real emotion. Assertiveness, strong convictions and constructive criticism aren’t expected or encouraged. We don’t like to be challenged, hear hard truths or have difficult conversations, so we avoid confrontation. Instead, we coddle, censure ourselves and comply.

We’re accustomed to safe, shallow interactions and tend to blur the line between Midwestern nice and genuine kindness. Midwestern nice is passively polite and often transparent to the true character and feelings that lie below the surface. Many of us have learned to be small and silent and as accommodating and convenient as possible. In turn, we neglect to be real, questioning, emotional or genuine. The false persona we portray is reflected in the disingenuous niceties we try to pass as kindness.

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The Midwest is home to kings and queens of condescension and palpable pleasantries that all amount to naught. Those of us who put up an armor preventing others from getting to know us at our core are thought to be cold, rude and uptight. However, the armor acts as a filter from frilly filler to protect efficiency and productivity.

We’re accustomed to the robotic rhetoric of Midwestern nice. As we smile and nod and spend our time making small talk, passive aggressiveness in the form of artificial sincerity comes at the cost of valuable energy. Surface level interactions are meaningless and rob us from the warmth and joy of small, but significant acts of kindness and genuine, honest exchanges.

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People think of kindness as something that requires going out of their way for someone, but kindness doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. Sometimes the simplest acts go the furthest with others. When someone pulls in her legs to let you by, a server calls you “dear” like your mother would, or a driver breaks to let you cross an intersection — these are the brief moments of exchange we’re each looking for. They’re subtle yet sincere rather than said or done mechanically or by rote.

We’re all busy running, rushing, wanting. We’re wrapped in our own conveniences, frustrations, and ennui and fail to recognize the space given to pause for simple considerations. However, it’s in these moments between hurrying here and there where the goodness and the character we should each aspire to dwells. It’s in the fleeting brief connections we make when we say, “let me lend a hand”, “you inspire me”, “you are enough”. Support, encouragement, and love: three simple acts of genuine kindness we’re all capable of that can change the course of not only a person’s day, but life. Afterall, it’s not the grand acts we’re all looking for, or the standard lines and empty promises, it’s common decency.