A Season of Kindness

Category: Influence of Museums
View of a notecard with a drawn red pepper, and two pea pods laying on a white doily on a burlap background.
Kindness Matters by Virginia L. Flikr (CC BY 2.0)

Much like museums, my daughter’s school distributes a quarterly calendar at which I typically glance to note important dates like the ubiquitous school closings, PTA meetings, and volunteer opportunities.

The new calendar, however, caught my attention for more than logistical planning. It was labeled “A Season of Kindness.”

I have been thinking a lot about kindness lately, defined as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” It seems we could all benefit from both giving and receiving a little more kindness. Add to this the related notions of “thanks” and “giving” typically celebrated during this season, and we each have the power to make our world a little better.

The world is hard to understand right now. Devastating news of violence, natural disasters, and desperate situations for fellow humans is never-ending. Political pundits on all sides believe our country is more divided than it’s been in decades. Shouting has replaced civil dialogue in many areas, and we’re each absolutely positive that our position on any given issue is the only correct one. People with differing opinions or perspectives are viewed as simply wrong, not worth considering, discussing, or even hearing out.

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The frantic pace of communications and unrelenting pressure to constantly “take a side” on every issue (as if every issue has only two sides) discourages us from active listening, taking time to learn and reflect, or considering compromises. Impatience and feelings of powerlessness lead us to assume ill-intent rather than giving, even our closest colleagues, the benefit of the doubt. The stakes for our country, for our museums, for our friends’ and families’ and strangers’ lives seem like they’ve never been higher.

As we cope with all of this, couldn’t we all benefit from a season of kindness? I see opportunity for all of us in the museum field to spread friendly words, gestures, generous treatment, and considerate actions to our colleagues and our visitors. Don’t we all need to take a deep breath to gain a little space and perspective as this year comes to a close?

Will you join me in trying to create “a season of kindness” among our museum community? Please take a few minutes to really hear and consider a different perspective on something you feel strongly about. Donate a few more dollars or time than usual to a museum or museum cause doing good work. Consider generously thanking that someone in your museum, with the thankless job, who is trying to make the world a better place in their own way.

I am grateful for all of the people who make the American Alliance of Museums such a powerful, passionate, thoughtful, and thought-provoking community – including the AAM Board of Directors and Board alumni, Accreditation Commissioners and Peer Reviewers, the Professional Network leaders, and numerous volunteers who serve generously on program and event committees, working groups, judging panels, and more. I am extremely grateful for the talented, funny, and kind AAM staff with whom I get to work every day.

And, perhaps most important, thank you to the 35,000 members who make up the Alliance! There is no Alliance without you. May your lives be full of thanks, giving—and kindness—this holiday season.

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Comments

2 Comments

  1. Dear Laura,
    Your message is most appreciated and extremely timely, but particularly within the museum community. Why, because as museum professionals, we are usually the ones who get to share, develop, design and create the stories that need to be told. The stories that help us to have a platform for the topics that really need to be brought to the fore and discussed. Hopefully, at least for a little while, we all can endeavor to invite each other to remember to share kindness, because Laura, the results of not doing so will be extremely disappointing. Thank you for igniting the season of kindness, we need it desperately!

  2. I agree. All of us, in all walks of life, can contribute to the season of kindness. It’s interesting to reflect on how that can be manifest in museums right now. One aspect is the way every single staff member interacts with the public and each other. What else?

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