The Kindness of Strangers

The kindness of strangers.png

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois declares that she’s always depended on the kindness of strangers.  This is a line my mother enjoyed repeating, and, therefore, it’s a line I’ve pondered over time.  I’m not really sure what Blanche meant, or maybe I am.  But I think I understand what my mother meant. And for the record, I don’t agree.  Shocked, you are, I’m sure.  But it’s an interesting concept, actually, and one I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. And I’m going to digress in the next few paragraphs (more shock, I know), but I promise I’m going to get back to this concept toward the end.

As I continue to look back over the past year, I’ve been thinking about the books I’ve read.  I’ve read some amazing books by well-established authors who I love, love, love, and about whom I’ve written extensively.  And I’ve also read some memorable books by new authors who are less well known. There are four books (or series) in this latter category in particular that I want to talk about: The Light Who Shines, by Lilo Abernathy; Jade, by Rose Montague; The Sanctum Trilogy (The Girl and The Boy, so far), by Madhuri Blaylock; and The Unelmoija series by Elle Boca (including The Dreamshifter and The Mindshifter, which are the two of the four that I have read so far).  All of these books have at least one common theme, despite many differences in the specifics of plot, characterization and world building.

The theme at hand is decency and generosity.  Each of the main characters in each of these books/series confronts adversity and reversals with open hearts, minds and hands.  And the openness of their beings is an important element in defining who they are.  I’ve written about this aspect of these works specifically twice here and here  and more obliquely elsewhere here; here; here; and here .  But now I want to say more about these books and their authors.

I have always assumed that individuals write what they know, on one level or another.  Thus, I believe that Thea Harrison and Nalini Singh know a thing or two about how to have successful relationships between strong-willed individuals. I’ve assumed that Laurell Hamilton understands, in a visceral and meaningful way, what family is, or should be, and what it means to find meaning in the minutiae of life. And I think Charlaine Harris, Jeaniene Frost, and Faith Hunter appreciate the soft underbelly of strong women, that which makes them human, even when they aren’t.  Perhaps I’m wrong about these amazing authors, but I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Over the course of the past nine months, since I began writing this blog, I’ve gotten to know Lilo, Rose, Madhuri and Elle a little bit through social media.  Sounds a little shallow, I know, and I might have thought that myself prior to my recent experiences, but it’s not. When I began my very tentative foray into Twitter, last summer, I made a commitment to putting out one tweet a day. No sooner than I’d started my very basic and bland one tweet a day with my brand new Twitter account (@truthinfantasy), I was discovered by Lilo, who added me to some sort of retweet list, and, boom, my Twitter life was launched in earnest. Shortly thereafter, Rose found me and promoted me to her followers, followed in short order by Madhuri and Elle, who also added me to their inner Twitter circles, retweeting me and favoriting my tweets and blogs, and in doing so, ensuring my success in the Twitterverse.

And the truth is, this was all about what these amazing authors write about:  paying it forward, turning the other cheek, offering the hand of friendship with no expectation of compensation.  These women are just like the characters and themes they write about, and this is why, based on my highly unscientific sampling of four, I am sure I am right about the other others I have read and loved.

I don’t think it’s possible to write books this good and talk the talk so authentically without walking the walk in one’s personal life.  I mean, after all, does it make sense to you that someone like Lilo, Rose, Elle and Madhuri would write about being compassionate in the face of hate, giving in the face of stinginess, and tolerance in the face of close-mindedness if these authors didn’t reflect these higher characteristics of the human condition in their own lives?  Even if these characters and characteristics are aspirational rather than descriptive, I applaud their intentions. I can only hope mine are as pure.

So, back to the kindness of strangers (I promised, didn’t I??)  For Blanche and my mother, the kindness of strangers meant in relying on the intimacy of the one night stand over the intimacy of a long term relationship. It meant the freedom to say and do things you would not otherwise do because there were no consequences of having to face the other person at another time. The kindness of strangers, for Blanche and my mom, was the ability to be all in--for a very finite period of time with no fear of repercussions later because there was no later. There was no disappointment because there were no expectations. There was no betrayal because there was absolutely no context. There was no tuning out because it cost so little to tune in temporarily. So, that is certainly one way to look at it—and then look what happened to Blanche.  Not so pretty (my mom, too, but that is the subject of another post).

But then contrast that with what I mean by the kindness of strangers.  I mean the ability to be generous because it elevates us.  The ability to be open and real because it feeds our souls.  And if we get something back, that’s the icing on the cake. But we don’t need the icing, because we’ve filled up on the spongy, vanilla goodness (I like vanilla better than chocolate, remember?  Here.  My faith in humanity has been validated again by the knowledge that these authors really are like the characters they write about.  And how awesome, amazing and lovely is that?

So, the kindness of strangers is a real thing, not another irony in a sad and pathetic life.  Depending on how you look at it, of course.  And I’m a half full kind of gal, dontcha know? Thank you Lilo, Rose, Elle, and Madhuri.  Write more, please, so I can continue to grow and learn through your work.  And thank you for reaching out the hand of friendship to someone you don’t even know—just because that’s the kind of women you are. Thanks for helping to make 2014 a banner year for me, and I look forward to even better things in 2015. Life is good.