The Homewood P.O., & Radical Kindness

(I posted the following to Facebook just over a week ago, a few days before I started this blog. Now that this blog exists, I thought I’d say it here too.)

From November 18, 2016:

1. I just got back from the post office in Homewood, Alabama.

2. Apparently, yesterday or today this post office received a load of hate mail, directed at its African American and Hispanic staff. Something vile and odorous was left in its lobby and the place smelled awful this morning. I haven’t been able to find specifics online — will post them when I see them — but the letters, I understand, said something like this: now that Trump is king, you’d better get out. (Update: It looks like my details were accurate. Here’s the story, on local news.)

3. I didn’t know any of this while I was standing in the long line at the P.O., although I did wonder about some hushed conversations going on behind the counter. As usual, the postal worker announced to the line: if you’ve got anything just to drop off, you can go ahead and bring it up. A white woman who’d been waiting in line stepped forward and said to the room:

“I don’t have any business to do. But I heard that this staff had received some hateful messages in the mail. And I want you to know that you have many friends here in this community. We love this post office, and we love you, and I just came here to say that. We love you.”

4. Last Saturday, a friend initiated #radicalkindnessday, encouraging anyone to devote their day to performing acts of radical kindness, however small or large. And people all over the country wrote in on Facebook to say what sorts of things they’d been doing, and what sorts of reactions they were getting.

It’s desperately important that this not be an annual or one-time event. Find a day in the next week to devote to radical kindness. And try to commit some such act of kindness — creatively and purposefully — every single day, from now on.

5. If you happen to live in or near Homewood, or if you ever use the post office on 18th Street, here’s a suggestion I’d like to offer as you consider your next act of #radicalkindness: send its staff some love. Bake them some Thanksgiving pie. Send them some love mail. Stand in their line, when you have no business to do, just to verbally declare your support.

Your kindnesses matter.

P.S. For what it’s worth, here’s what Glory, Norah, and I did last Saturday, on our first Day of Radical Kindness. (We enjoyed reading what others were up to — we read all the #radicalkindess posts to each other for inspiration — so I share our details here, in that spirit.) We gave out flowers and notes of encouragement at Railroad Park (the notes were Norah’s idea), baked brownies and cookies for our favorite convenience store owners, and bought doggie treats for the Humane Society. We still have a few more baked deliveries we didn’t have time to make, and a few letters we intend to write and mail; so several days later we’re still checking things off our ambitious list of weekend kindnesses — which is one way, I guess, to keep it going. Once we’ve checked them all off, we’ll make a new list.

To be clear, here’s the thing: we are overwhelmed. And we know (we do!) that cookies and flowers and dog treats aren’t going to stop white supremacy or hold an administration — and its most dangerous cheerleaders — accountable. Really, we know that. We are searching for bigger, real, political solutions and hope you are too (let us know what you got).


a stranger at Railroad Park gave me a long, intense and wonderful hug after I handed her and her husband a flower. We introduced ourselves and talked for a moment and looked each other in the eye. Another young man told us, with a shaking voice: “I have been having a really hard time today, and this does help.” And I’d never seen the convenience store guys so excited as they were by this enormous delivery of sugar and butter. Nor have I heard the word “love” uttered so many times in the post office line. So all that, surely, is something. Baby steps, but something. And, anyway: if the alternative is despair, or complacency, or complicity, or never getting out of bed again — then for me the choice is clear.

Peace, everybody. Let’s all see what we can do.


Another P.S. The Day of Radical Kindness began as a Facebook event, thrown out to the world by Ally Wallen, just a few days after our presidential election. Here’s an excerpt from her proposal. Again, it’s a good plan for every week and weekend, and for every single day:

“I challenge us all to a day of radical kindness.

This Saturday, find a way to show radical kindness to your neighbors, friends, family, and strangers. Call your mom, buy a stranger a cup of coffee, reach out to someone that you know is afraid or feeling marginalized, send a friend some snail mail, volunteer, look people in the eyes and share a smile, connect with someone you disagree with, share a meal, send a prayer.

Imagine what we could do, as angry, afraid, disheartened as we may feel, if we choose to spread love and kindness as far and wide as possible. What could this day look like if we take all we feel and turn it in to tangible good?”

Thanks, Ally.

Let’s all get to work.