Notes to Dearie, 28 July, 2020

Jeffrey Puukka

28 July, 2020
Esther Short Park, Vancouver, Washington

HAPPY TUESDAY, HUMANS! This is my favorite sculpture in a popular park in downtown Vancouver, so I hid a note for ‘Dearie’ there. The sculpture is separate pieces, interacting together to form one piece of art. A little girl with a bouquet is extending a flower to a man sitting on a park bench, with his newspaper. The story is open to interpretation, but what is clear is the connection and smile shared between them. Something in this interaction seems essentially kind.

Kindness interests me. In the fairy tale mash-up INTO THE WOODS, it was to the Witch that lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim gave the words, ”You’re so nice. You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice…” and, I confess, I’ve often pondered the distinction between being nice and being kind. For me, the difference seems to be summed up in the ideas of regard, and sincerity.

The niceness I’ve encountered in my life was pleasant. It smiled brightly. Niceness was polite. Niceness exhibited unexpected interest, and so for a moment, I felt quite important! Then once the interaction was over, it left me questioning what was sincere, or merely good manners. It is possible to be nice, and surprisingly vacant from an encounter. Kindness is something else.

Kindness didn’t always smile as brightly, but kindness accepted me as I was. Kindness was helpful. What mattered most was that at the end of the interaction, I felt regarded, engaged with, and I was unharmed. I felt worthy.

As Maya Angelou pointed out, ”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel…”. In this fast-paced world which slyly compels so many of us to curate how or why reveal ourselves to others, this note for ‘Dearie’ is a little reminder that simple kindnesses really do impact one’s moment, self esteem, day, and life. It counts to be kind.

Stay happy and healthy!


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Published by Jeffrey Puukka

Jeffrey Puukka is an award winning theatre director, living and working in Portland, Oregon.