Negativity and divisiveness have been unfortunately difficult to ignore in recent memory. I dare not associate such forces with the name of one of the purest, gentlest souls that I’ve ever had the good fortune of calling a close friend. Rather, I wish to channel Kelly’s sparkling spirit to highlight what it means to create positivity. I confess; I feel a great deal of pressure writing something that is to be released on the anniversary of her passing. I’ve never been particularly eloquent, nor have I ever been good about expressing my emotions—certainly not in written form. But on to the ever-important question: How can we create positivity? I’m a big believer in starting small:
Smile at a stranger. Say something nice to him or her!
Tell someone that you are grateful for his or her presence in your life.
Engage in conversation with and LISTEN to someone that you disagree with.
Bring people together and forge new friendships.
Buy a coffee for the person behind you at your favorite coffee shop.
The ever-quotable Chris Hadfield, who you may know as the astronaut that brought us David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” FROM SPACE, says: “It is not the end goal that changes you, but the summed total of each of the small, daily decisions”. The few examples I’ve listed above are, of course, a very small subset of the infinite number of positive daily decisions we should all strive to make. I won’t lie—I fit the mold of “grumpy New Yorker” quite well. I tend to avoid eye contact, keep to myself, and get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Kelly… not so much. I can’t NOT associate Kelly with being an effulgence of positivity that brought everyone around her up. Even more staggering is that while Kelly excelled at the small bursts of goodness, she also devoted herself towards the long-term cause of social justice for people half a world away. Kelly possessed the rare combination of being both intellectually and emotionally mature far beyond her years — something that has been true ever since I’ve known her. I wish this was something that I had possessed when I had known her. While I spent most of high school perfecting the art of slaying virtual monsters, she was encouraging our classmates think about how to solve important and complex problems through her social justice club. While I was honing my skills as a Dance Dance Revolution master, she was pouring her heart and soul into writing about peace in Darfur, Sudan, and South Sudan. It is rare enough for someone to be so engrossed in the problems of those in distant places, but I could not begin to count the number of times Kelly made herself available to support those around her… myself included! Look no further than this many other blog posts here to see how she has deeply has influenced us all.
In my daily attempts to journal and purge the negative thoughts from my system, there is no person more emblematic of the positive energy than Kelly. Thus, every morning, I thought it would be appropriate to schedule a programmatically generated email as follows:
SUBJECT: Write about today! <Today’s date>
BODY: “Remember Kelly. Channel her in everything that you do, and both you and the world will be a better place.”
Kelly fought for justice with unrivaled passion—it is life’s cruelest irony that she, like my mother, was taken from us so abruptly by such an unjust disease. As with all things, however, there is a silver lining. In the words of the great Albus Dumbledore, “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” As Kelly’s great and eternal adventure continues, it brings me joy to think that she must be smiling at how profound her legacy is—how many people her spirit inspires, how much joy she brought to the world in such a short time, and how she will never, ever be forgotten.
Finally, I will end on a quote that I discovered in my own attempts to cultivate a more mindful and positive attitude. I’d like to think Kelly would have enjoyed this, too:
“May my enemies be well, happy, and peaceful; may no difficulties come to them; may no problem come to them; may they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.”
―Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English
I miss you, Kelly. I can’t wait to come home and bring you flowers.