Article originally featured at Hometown Focus on October 13th, 2017
When it is hard and you are doubtful, give more. -Francis Chan
Every day there’s a new tragedy. Stories of heartbreak from around the globe flood the news and social media. Blame is claimed and shifted, solutions disputed. We point fingers, retweet, and share our opinions on public platforms, all for the same reason: we care. Because we do not want this horrible, needless event that has occurred to happen again. Why would we? It pains us when precious lives are lost, or we perceive injustice. We are intelligent beings, so we use debate to drill down to the root of the problem- because if we have it by the root, we can yank it out. Fix it and save lives. That’s what a sophisticated society does, right? Identifies a problem, implements a solution.
But what about me, personally? Or you? Will sharing some article on Facebook really bring about change? I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like social media truly is the echo chamber we’ve been warned it is, yet it feels too bleak to sit by and do nothing. True, I vote, sign petitions, and stay informed, each providing me a fleeting sense of comfort, that is until I witness a heartfelt, “Thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families” post get attacked, at which point, I feel myself backsliding to square one of despair. Still, I get it. People have big hearts and want meaningful action. They want tangible solutions, not well wishes. And really, don’t these heated exchanges often derive from a place of deepfelt compassionate and love for humanity? Isn’t that what we’re arguing for- our happiness and continued existence?
A friend asked, “How do we fix what is broken?” and the question pressed me back in my chair. I sat unblinking, the gears in my head churning. I felt overwhelmed for there was no easy answer. Then, days later, while reading the latest outrage over another mass shooting, I realized how flawed my thinking had been. My friends, the very ones shouting at the top of their lungs, lashing out about “thoughts and prayers,” might be onto something. Things need to change… So where do we begin?
At square one. With me, with you, right here and now. And we don’t have to be on capitol hill to do it.
After we call representatives, sign petitions, attend town hall meetings, and cast ballots, it’s our small, everyday actions that do the most to promote betterment in this world. Mentoring children, helping the aging and less fortunate, volunteering, walking dogs at the shelter. Actions so unassuming, they’re often dismissed because they’re not “big” enough or don’t present a direct link to the latest tragedy. But they are linked, and they’re important.
Let me pose a question- isn’t jarring how the mildest of slights can haunt us years later? How a memory of the time we tripped in front of a crowd chides us, or that meaningful compliment offered by someone important replays for years and even decades later? Small moments and actions matter. Our seeds of kindness spread love, allowing joy to bud and instill hope- and when hope compiles, it gains strength and builds momentum. It leads to bigger actions, bringing about intelligent solutions that hearts hardened by neglect and misgivings cannot perceive. Our kindness paves the way, shining light and love on others, begetting more of the same.
Should you ever doubt the contagiousness or effectiveness of hope, try spending time with young people. Real, quality time. Despite what some would lead you to believe about their generation being lazy or entitled, young people today are pretty amazing. They have endless energy, big dreams, and bigger hearts capable of incredible empathy. They have ambitious goals about saving our planet and improving a broken system- just as soon as we get out of their way and let them do it.
Our grandparents, young cousins, aging parents, and disillusioned friends need us. Animals need us, future generations need us. It’s what we do in this moment right where we stand that matters. Look for ways to help. It may be a few bags of groceries at a donation drop-off or lending an open ear to a friend over coffee. Give and act without expectation. Don’t worry if the “thank you” doesn’t come, or if it doesn’t feel big enough; good deeds are like pebbles tossed into the ocean of universe. The ripple effect can and will change someone’s life for the better. And that can only start when we use our time and unique gifts to benefit one another. I truly believe each of us already knows what we can do, it’s only a matter of acting.
And if you want to send out positive vibes and prayers while you’re at it, well, you won’t hear boo from me. As they say, “You do you,” and I hope you will.