Bob Drewel got us thinking.
The former Snohomish County executive and former head of the Puget Sound Regional Council is known just as much for his work as an advocate for business, education and — especially — community in the county, region and state.
Most recently, speaking before the Community Foundation of Snohomish County’s 10th annual Human Services Breakfast, the subject was kindness, as reported recently by Herald columnist Julie Muhlstein.
Some might dismiss such a subject as the kind of touchy-feely platitude common to fundraising events, meant to be forgotten once the check is written.
From Drewel, the word is a call to duty. And it’s meant to stick.
“Kindness gives everyone the sense that they can move forward,” Drewel said at the April 20 breakfast.
That kindness — and the empathy that fosters it — have always been behind his efforts. Most recently he assisted in the three-year effort by Darrington and Arlington to show the work undertaken to revitalize those communities following not only the 2014 Oso landslide but the longer-lived economic downturn in the Stillaguamish Valley and north Snohomish County.
A contest, the America’s Best Communities, offered prize money to the nation’s top three communities. One of eight semifinalists, Arlington and Darrington didn’t end as one of the top three, but “it’s the kind of competition you never lose,” Drewel said. “Nobody loses if we work for other people.”
The support shown the Community Foundation and the efforts demonstrated by those in Darrington and Arlington prove that the kindness Drewel encourages remains abundant, though he and others have concerns about what can happen to communities and the nation when political divisions and a lack of empathy discourage that kindness.
The nation’s current divisions — red state vs. blue state, red voter vs. blue voter — could become a threat to kindness and the civic action that results.
This isn’t a sole indictment of the current administration; the divisions were growing before, during and after the presidential campaign, and likely would have persisted regardless of who won November’s election. The danger is in allowing those partisan differences to act against our display of kindness in our communities, to each other and particularly to those in need.
To better define the term, this isn’t about being nice or about politeness, though both have their place. But being pleasant doesn’t require a commitment to work together. Civil tongues don’t necessarily share a common goal.
Kindness, at the same time, doesn’t require that we agree on a particular solution. We will have different ideas on what should be done, but we do have to agree on the outcome, a better community that meets its needs. Kindness — a shared goal to do good in our community — then helps us find good solutions.
Nor does kindness require that we back down from our principles and beliefs.
Showing kindness isn’t a display of weakness. Just the opposite, Drewel says, it’s a demonstration of a community’s strength.
Drewel, in his recent speech, used Plato’s definition: “Kindness is more than deeds; it is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts a person.”
We have no lack of opportunities in our community to use kindness. Advocacy groups, churches, schools, senior centers, service clubs, all need our financial donations, our volunteer hours and our support.
Anything that lifts a person.
How to be kind
For more information about the Community Foundation of Snohomish County, formerly the Greater Everett Community Foundation, go to www.cf-sc.org/.
To donate to the foundation’s Human Services Fund or its other community impact funds, go to www.cf-sc.org/give/donate-now/.