How We Have Lionized Kindness

December 11, 2018

Jackie Powell, 21, grew up in Irvington, NY. She currently studies international relations and journalism at the University of Rochester. Jackie hosts her own radio talk show and serves as a columnist at her school newspaper, The Campus Times. Her talk show and columns focus on the intersection of feminism, social justice and sports. She also is working on an investigative report on mishandled campus sexual assault cases. Jackie’s other interests include the Boston Red Sox and anything British.

What I remember was a whirlwind. There was so much energy and so little time. I had 48 hours to meet 50 new people and learn how I could make an impact. It sounds akin to some secret undercover mission you read about or see on the silver screen. It’s an operation that to some seems close to fantasy, verging on the impossible.

I was apprehensive at our Channel Kindness meeting in January, but that receded when I understood the opportunity right in front of my eyes. With my college graduation on the horizon, I had an ardor to connect with people outside of my University bubble. It feels like just yesterday when we all passed around our phones, followed and friended each other on multiple social platforms.

After months of keeping up with my fellow Reporters after the weekend we spent, it was refreshing that I had connected with people who stood for analogous personal aspirations and genuinely cared about making a difference. And also, many of us bonded over being Lady Gaga “stans” or super fans.

We were united by the bravery and storytelling ability of our inspiration, LG. This year, I was reminded of how imperative storytelling is to make notable impacts on society.

Part of the brilliance of being a storyteller is that you have this incredible opportunity to be able to start a conversation around a topic. That’s a powerful result. There’s a chance to alter someone else’s mind and open it to new possibilities. There’s a chance to help others on their journey and make them feel like they are less alone.

It is such a privilege to tell stories that make people feel something.  I’m honored that Channel Kindness let me do as such. Each person who I spoke with this year had such a purpose behind what they were doing to aid those around them. I’ve realized that those are the stories I yearn to tell.

If I was observing community service in an education center for refugees, talking to someone who dresses up in costume as a form of self-care, or listening to someone bare their soul about a brother they lost to suicide in a Mental Health First Aid course, storytelling gives people the confidence to go and engage in something productive.

It’s the truth that we should value now more than ever. There is something courageous about truth-telling. It isn’t easy. Stories matter. Truth matters. Young people matter. Anyone taking the time to read this reflection of course matters.

We live in a very dark world, and it’s integral to be reminded that light exists. Lady Gaga recently accepted an award from the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and delivered a speech where she discussed how necessary being open and honest is in our current societal landscape.

“We are losing a generation of young people who do not believe that their voices are worth hearing,” she said. “That their pain has no end and that their contributions are not valuable enough to move the needle in society and culture.”

I remember at a point this year when I felt neither my voice nor my dreams mattered. I had just graduated from college and had begun adjusting to the transitions that accompany that type of change. To be honest, I’m still adjusting, but these ebbs and flows of self-deprecating emotions happen to the best of us, and they are difficult to cease.

Participating in #BeKind21 in September aided me in putting my challenges in perspective. When I performed one act of kindness per day for a family member, friend, or a complete stranger, I felt a sense of gratitude. I stepped outside of my head and leaped back into the world.

We have always lived in a world where kindness appears uncommon. We need it. I don’t mean to be hokey when I say this. I understand that it’s human nature for darkness to exist. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all try our best to ameliorate it for others. When we give a voice to organizations and people who exude bravery and diligence, we lionize kindness.

Channel Kindness is only the beginning of a movement to begin to change the ways society views vulnerability and compassion.

“The need in this world for kindness is paralyzing,” Lady Gaga said. “The negative news and tragedies are non-stop and overwhelming. Let’s make kindness overwhelming.”

This year has been a whirlwind. This year has been emotionally taxing and stressful. But similar to when I began my journey with Channel Kindness, I realized the opportunities we have to make a difference may be overwhelming and may appear mythical or something that verges on the impossible. But in the end, that’s what makes it worth it.

To everyone at the Born This Way Foundation, Lady Gaga, and all of the Channel Kindness Reporters, I thank you for giving me this opportunity, supporting me, and valuing my voice.