Tuesday, Nov 26 2013 06:00 AM

Then and Now: A call for kindness

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Claudia Elliott

Her name is Kim and we have not met. But she's called for me a few times, and stopped by the office and finally last week we connected by telephone.

Lots of people call me, for lots of reasons.

It wasn't clear to me at first why Kim was calling.

She had something she wanted me to say in the paper, but she was having a little difficulty getting it out.

I kept listening.

Eventually it was clear to me that Kim has been through a lot. Her life has been difficult. More help from authorities at certain times in her life might have made a difference, but she didn't get it.

When she's been a victim, there haven't been the resources to help her, to investigate transgressions or look beneath the surface to see what was really going on.

She's been hurt by this and doesn't understand.

And sometimes she's been made a victim by the very people who should have been helping her.

I kept listening. I could not help her, but I could listen.

She's called other newspapers and no one listened.

"If you could just put this in the paper," she said.

As I listened, I tried to distill what Kim was telling me down to the essential elements. I'm not sure I succeeded, but what I think she was asking was pretty simple -- why can't people be more kind?

I suspect that there are a lot more Kims in the world than we think. People who do their best but end up more often than others dealing with folks in authority -- law enforcement, government officials and others, even educators. They need more kindness, more patience, than they get. And as a result, they become less trusting, less confident and less able to deal with their problems.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had this to say about kindness: "Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."

Nor does a town.

Talking with Kim, and with others who have shared their stories with me in recent months, I've noticed that individual rights are often trampled. Choices are made that supposedly are in the public interest, without regard for those who may be hurt.

City sales tax revenue has improved, for instance, and there is money to spend to subsidize an airport or plan an event center, but many people have not yet recovered from the recession and some never will.

For a number of reasons, we have people who don't have the resources -- personal or financial -- to cope with everything our government throws at them.

Locally, code enforcement is ramping up and all in the name of progress, but what about people?

Those of you who who make decisions, who pass the ordinances and approve the policies, next time I hope you'll think of Kim -- or listen a little more to the people like Kim who probably call you from time to time and seem to ramble.

Listen -- and I think you'll hear that what they're asking for is basic human kindness.

Kim, I hope I got it right.


CLAUDIA ELLIOTT is editor of the Tehachapi News. Send email to: celliott@tehachapinews.com or call 823-6360.

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