I love Northampton.
And I hardly know it yet.
But, I truly adore this little place and continue to discover reasons it is a perfect fit for us… and will be a perfect fit for Curio. We are constantly meeting new and interesting people, all of whom reach out in ways I would not peg Americans to reach. I say Americans because, when Fitz and I consider generosity and conscious acts of kindness, those attributes tend to weave themselves into stories of travel. We have countless tales from our trips abroad of people we met along the way who went out of their way to ___________ (welcome us into their home, give clear directions, help us out of some unimaginable predicament, etc). Having the good fortune to travel extensively in China, Southeast Asia, India, and throughout Europe, I always thought this level and type of kindness were unique to everywhere-but-America. It’s not that Americans aren’t kind… but, as a whole, we tend to close ourselves off… hiding behind layers of pretense, colored by technology and rigid schedules, money or predetermined agendas. It’s not a conscious stereotype and there are innumerable exceptions. However, what I’m realizing (thank goodness) is that this specific type of kindness – that catches you off-guard but makes you blush in its earnestness – can be found in good ol’ Americans too! It’s a human generosity of spirit that seems to seek solace in that which is “new.”
So it wasn’t because we were traveling… it was because we were new! As we looked at life through glasses newly tinted, we saw with such voracious consumption and such unquenchable curiosity. It’s a gaze that is instantly disarming. Personal bubble popped, security layer removed, cell phone turned —> OFF. We became a perfect light to attract the moths of natural human kindness. And, as we stumbled across these beautifully fortuitous paths along our journeys, we encouraged a domino effect of kindness that continues to spill into and out of our lives to this day.
We look on Northampton much in the same way as we do a place we’ve traveled. It’s new. We’re new. It’s all so “curious” (a word made deliciously applicable by a Chinese friend).
People’s beautiful and simple acts of kindness – a word of encouragement, a meal, earnest advice, a book left on the doorstep, a chilled glass of Rose, a phone call, morning coffee, a repeat “customer” checking in on our progress, a story, a new phone number, an invitation, a belief in what we’re doing (sometimes with more conviction than us!) – all these moments of kindness reenforce so much of why we’re doing this.
You can’t find this everywhere — but, at the same time, we have found this every place we turn. Does that make sense?
Kindness is always possible – it’s always a choice. But we must make conscious both the acts of giving and receiving. And, perhaps most importantly, the act of recognition. Don’t forget (I tell myself) to pull out these moments and marvel in their simplicity. In their laughably easy nature. In how effortlessly they fit into your understanding of “now.”
You’re sitting in tent in a garden in your new hometown, sharing a seat with the person you love, sipping a hot cup of brewed barley – a new drink you never knew you loved. Outside the tent, the first thunderstorm of spring pulls the smell of a new summer into air made moist with fat raindrops and mist. Inside the tent, friends overlap stories and connections via travel-meets cycling-meets new adventures and old. It’s so simple.
And I love it.