Kay Merriam

Kay Merriam

If you look in a dictionary, the word “kind” can have many, many meanings. Words may have a history, a variety of ways in which to use them and who knows what else?

Let’s take a look in the Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (Second Edition) that sits on the floor in my work room. It weighs about 15 pounds and is very good for stepping on in order to reach something high in a closet or cupboard.

In a practical sense, it includes space of about one and one half page in said Dictionary, to define the many uses of the word “kind.” Some dictionaries will also contain the history of a word describing how it was originally used; how that definition changed over time and (fortunately) how it is used today. However, let’s return to this dictionary and why we are focusing on it at this time.

Starting on Monday, Sept. 16, a free event, sponsored by many Pocatello businesses, will begin at 5 p.m. and provide entertainment, food and performances of dancing and singing. It will start from the Center Street Underpass and proceed to Main Street and then to Old Town Pocatello. However, the concept of being “kind” does not stop when the music stops.

Going on to the definition of “kind” in the dictionary, it progresses from “a natural inborn group; an agreement to one’s nature; tender; cordial; well-born; and then into words which make use of “kind” in part such as kindergarten which is a school or class for young children. Then, kindhearted; kindly; or kindred (relative by birth or common origin. A computer will also provide several definitions of ‘kind’, but, enough is enough before we get on to the purpose of this Old Town event.

The word “kind” can be given careful thought in order to attain understanding of those individuals for whom home is under a bridge, in an alley, or on the street. We hear people objecting to help homeless individuals being taken care of in Pocatello.

The reasons for not allowing such a home to be available are often stated as: “we don’t want criminals living in our neighborhood.” The only response we can offer to such statements is 1) lacking in compassion, 2) has not traveled enough to know that this is not a unique situation here, or 3) won’t allow him or her to recognize how situations can become so desperate that living on the street is the only option available.

We live in a country that has had ups and downs about being kind. Presently, the attitudes most verbalized seem to be that anyone who is not capable of buying and living in a nice home is worthless, frightening and certainly not worth understanding.

But, as with so many attitudes and beliefs, we are often responding to individual fears and misconceptions. So how do we allow ourselves to move away?

One situation is available for change right here in our schools. Being friendly, having conversations with new students, insisting that all teachers treat students equally instead of paying most attention to those who are cute, well-dressed and intellectually interesting. Even though that threesome of characteristics is not seen in every student, we sometimes treat them as totally special.

Then let’s go to the grocery store, where a person is yelling at his or her child to “shut up,” “stop asking for candy” and the list goes on. It is easy to immediately assume “terrible parent,” or “uneducated” child caretaker. However, it wouldn’t hurt to merely smile or just ignore the situation. The most important response might be to tell yourself “she or he is really having a bad day.” The point is that we often don’t know what lies behind a person’s actions and so we should not jump to conclusions.

So now we get to “the old guy on the street.” Instead of assuming “bum, lazy, scary,” we can always smile, ask if they need something, or just drive on by without making a mental decision that “there goes another criminal.”

There are so many sad situations about which we may be blind, and while this information is not meant to encourage everyone to leap toward doing something personally unsure, it doesn’t hurt to smile and understand that helping others is not foolishness, stupid, or downright ridiculous.Besides, being happy is good for each and every one of us. Try it, you’ll like it.

Kay Merriam of Pocatello has a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. She was the president of the state League of Women Voters for two years and president of the Pocatello chapter for two years as well. She was the president of the Bannock County Planning and Zoning Committee for 11 years and on the Pocatello-Chubbuck District 25 School Board for six years.