There has been so much going on in my mind lately that I’ve struggled to find words for this space. I felt no doubt that I would begin writing only to have far more spill onto the page than I wanted to share. I am mostly an open book, but my loved ones aren’t. I have to respect that.
Some of you who subscribe to this blog via email, may have received a post (twice) that I published, then deleted, then published, then deleted again. I tried to talk about self-reflection and things I have learned about myself lately, but the truth is that those things are changing every day and it just didn’t feel right to leave the words stuck on this page when my life is so fluid.
But, there is NO WAY I would stay silent on the matter of Bay Village and the 14-year old, special needs boy who was duped into doing an ALS ice bucket challenge. In case you haven’t heard, the bucket wasn’t full of ice water, it was full of feces, urine and saliva. I hope the criminals face swift and harsh punishment and I hope that when they’re finished with this life and face another, the punishment is eternal. It’s not my job to judge them, but I’m free to have an opinion.
This incident is at the heart of what I’ve struggled with lately; where is kindness? Is it really that hard to share good will and to treat others as you want to be treated? Why do we struggle to love, give and understand – to fight against ignorance, hate and judgement? Can’t we just be nice to one another? I think we can if we take the right steps.
1. Educate yourself. Kindness starts with you and if you think you’re witnessing injustice or think you may be guilty of perpetrating it, read about the topic. Part of my self-reflection is being honest with myself that I haven’t been my best self, so I went to the library and got two books about how to fix it. I’ve read dozens of articles, too. I’m a work-in-progress, but at least I’m looking for answers.
2. Educate your children. Insist they read books about people who face struggles and let them know they can make a difference simply by understanding that people are different. Tell them that it’s never okay to be disrespectful. You can voice an opinion without name-calling or bullying.
3. Smile more. Smile at the mailman, the cashier at Target, your spouse, your children, the stranger in the park and the woman in the car next to you at the traffic light. We’re all in this together. Spread a little light.
4. Have faith in people. Believe that people are good and find goodness in them. If you’re lucky, you may even draw it out of them and you’ll no longer have to search for it.
5. Lift someone up. It’s hard to be angry when someone is showing you kindness. Once you find the goodness in a person, tell them so. Let them know you’re thinking of them, you appreciate them or you’re proud of them. Compliments feel just as good to give as they do to get.
6. Use your network. Share stories like the one about this 14-year old boy with your friends and family. The more we talk about the pain we see and feel, the more aware we become. After that, refer to #1.
7. Listen. When you don’t have the words or the means, do a lot of listening. You don’t always have to say something. You don’t have to fight every fight. As a matter of fact, you can’t.
8. Be the friend you would call in a crisis. We’re all busy. We all have stress and crazy schedules with no time to ourselves, but if your car broke down and you needed a ride, wouldn’t it be great to know you could call someone and they’d be there. Be that person. Let people count on you.
9. Share your love. Tell your friends and family you love them. Don’t be scared of the word. When people feel loved, they are less likely to act out.
10. Don’t tolerate bullying. Ever. Not in your house, not in your schools, not in your neighborhood. Insist upon consequences and if the adults in charge don’t make something happen, they should face consequences too. Vote. Use your voice. Write a letter to the editor. Start an online forum. Start a petition on Facebook. Stand up for what’s right.
There really is goodness in all of us, but sometimes we need help finding it when it’s buried under shock and pain. Find your virtue, then show it to others and maybe it will spread. Let’s stop standing around, wishing for a kinder world. Let’s make it happen.