These days, it’s not uncommon to feel emasculated as citizens of the United States. It seems all our “leaders” can do is snarl and snipe at each other. Random acts of violence are common. People with hate in their hearts, or perversions in their minds, strike out and kill for no apparent reason. What we once believed in, perhaps with naïve innocence, all seems up for grabs: truth, morality, honor are now all relative (perhaps they always were), and voting appears to be nothing more than a scam, a shell game in which those with the quickest hands get to garner the most votes regardless of how the electorate actually responded.
Given the current environment, it’s understandable that many of us just throw up our hands and say “The hell with it!” It’s all broken. We scurry back to our homes and hide, perhaps go to sleep earlier than we used to just to disassociate ourselves from the apparent insanity rampant outside our locked doors. When we wake up in the morning and as thoughts tumble in, we sigh and say “There’s nothing I can do about all of this.” We might say to ourselves we will no longer look at the televised news, no longer read newspapers or magazines, no longer listen to the radio or get locked onto the Internet, clicking and clicking and clicking – we will, to the best of our abilities, become hermits, encase ourselves in whatever womb we can successfully construct, assume the pre-natal position and hope, one day, that, somehow, there will be a better world out there, outside our locked doors.
I acknowledge there’s nothing I can do about what’s happening in Washington, which seems as if it is currently populated by ferrets. I acknowledge there’s nothing I can do to ease the suffering in the trouble-spots of the world. I acknowledge that I can’t cure cancer or eliminate child or spousal abuse. So, it would seem, I am left with no options – nothing I can do -- a workable definition of despair. But there is something I can do.
Kindness. Little gestures. No, they won’t change the world but, oddly enough, in little ways, they will change yours, and in so doing perhaps you won’t toss and turn so much at night.
Holding open a door for someone. It takes a second or two, and the person often says “Thank you” and you say “You’re welcome.” Simple, but you’ve created a little wave of curtesy that may ripple through that person’s day.
Slowing down and letting someone into the right lane of the freeway. No big deal. So you get to where you’re going five seconds later, but often that driver will wave, a visual “Thank you,” and perhaps two miles down the road, he or she will let another person in, who will wave or perhaps flick the car’s lights in acknowledgement. Perhaps kindness and little gestures are progressive, they multiply.
I was in a supermarket a month ago and was pulling out a cart (those metal structures on wheels that tenaciously want to bond with each other) when an elderly woman started tugging fruitlessly on a cart. I gave her my cart, which certainly didn’t make me a candidate for sainthood, but she looked at me, smiled, and said. “Thank you.” So, today I was in the same store, tugging at a reluctant cart when a man came up, pulled out a cart from another line and offered it to me. I said “Thank you,” and as I walked off into the aisles I paused…and wondered. Had a ripple from a wave I had created just lapped back onto my shore?I can’t defeat hate. I can’t defeat cruelty. All I can do, in my small way, is be kind, be generous, be, when appropriate, humble. All I can do is embrace the humanity swirling about me and believe that these human beings, often so sorely troubled, just need a little kindness, as minor as it may be. I have found that when you are mean, when you’re spiteful, when you do not hold open the door but stride in to be served first, because you deserve such service, your soul gains just a little more weight, and if it gets heavy enough, it can no longer fly…it sinks into an abyss. However, when you hold open the door, your soul sheds a few ounces, and if it loses enough weight, it soars.