The Kindness Gene

We were in line at a coffee shop when an older lady ahead of us spilled her change purse. Without hesitation my daughter leaped forward. On her hands and knees she collected the scattered coins and happily handed them over to the appreciative woman. 

When it was time for us to order, the cashier leaned in and whispered, “Thank you for being so kind.” My daughter shrugged and said, “No problem. I love to help.” And she meant it.

She’s the sort of person who would give the shirt off her back. Or the shoes off her feet. The other morning she told me a girl in her class didn’t have gym shoes, which is why she was stuffing an extra pair of hers into her backpack. 

When we left the restaurant a man waited to hold the door open for us. As we passed through my daughter said, “Awww, thanks!” while she looked up at him, beaming. 

As we walked to the car it dawned on her. “Mum, I did something nice for that lady. Then that man did something nice for us. I get it.” 

Watching my child articulate such a revelation was pretty moving. In that moment it all made sense to her. She understood that kindness spreads and we’re all connected by our actions. Um, Oprah ‘uh-huh moment’.

We all like to help to some degree. It really does feel good. Sometimes we’re selflessly kind. Other times we choose to be kind out of obligation because it’s the right thing to do. And there are certainly times when we’re kind in hopes of getting something in return—attention perhaps. Like the guy on Tik Tok who filmed his random, and quite possibly staged, ‘good deed’ online and it went viral. Nice gesture, but the sincerity in questionable. 

But in the age of “Choose Kind”, more and more people are walking-the-talk. Some of it’s lip service, but there are true kindness warriors out there and it’s the loveliest kind of army. 

Are some people innately kind? 

From what I’ve observed, in the intellectual disability community specifically, the answer is yes. We know an abundance of incredibly selfless people who have kindness woven throughout their DNA. When we’re with my daughter’s friends, who have varying disabilities, it’s a safe and comfortable place to be. 

There are no monster egos or spiteful jabs. No ‘mean girls’ here—just encouraging smiles and the warmest hugs. They don’t think twice about helping someone or throwing an arm around them if they’re sad. Kindness is always the first choice. It’s an instinct.

My daughter doesn’t understand snark or sarcasm or lashing out in anger. Don’t get me wrong, she can turn on her heel and stomp off when she’s disappointed. She’s even working on her “eye roll” but fine motor skills are making it difficult for her (and highly entertaining for us). No, she’s not a Disney character with sunshine and rainbows coming out her ears. Her saucy reactions are human and appropriate, but they are never intentionally spiteful or remotely cruel. 

Genetic disorder or genetic gift?

Avery has missing bits of DNA. The genes that were deleted during mitosis make her “incomplete” in the eyes of medical science. But what if what is missing is the key? She seems to be missing pieces that might make her prone to judge or resent or belittle. Perhaps she, like so many of her peers with unique DNA, has her own special ‘kindness gene’. Without the ability to hate, there’s so much more room for empathy and compassion and love. Maybe her disabilities are in fact, the most amazing human ABILITY. 

Imagine if the whole world was wired like that? 

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