A trending topic on Twitter this week is #26Acts, which encourages people to do 26 random acts of kindness in honor of those killed last week at Sandy Hook elementary school. An interesting and touching way to honor those who died so senselessly. But why stop at 26 acts? And why did it take those horrible, senseless deaths to provoke our society to react?
I’m not going to write much about last week’s killing of innocent children and brave adults because so much already has been. I can’t add much value or explanation. I can’t wrap my arms around such a violent killing. I will never understand how any person can do such harm to others, especially to innocent children. These young people were learning manners, good behavior, how to value others, and that life was filled with amazing possibilities. I keep thinking of lyrics to a Whitney Houston song our choir sang in high school: “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way; show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier; let the children’s laughter remind us how it used to be.”
I read some Facebook posts that stated teachers don’t make enough money to deal with such tragedies. As if any profession makes enough to handle such violence! And when did it become a part of our society to need to prepare for such violence? When did we learn to become immune to such violence and move on so quickly (it seems like the media covers these tragedies 24/7 for days, then something else comes along and people put the tragedy aside)? When do we demand that such violence stop? When did I start looking for emergency exits as my husband and I sit in a movie theater, just in case?
I abhor violence. I hate yelling or arguments. Bullying is cowardly to me. Aggressive behavior doesn’t impress me. I don’t read books or watch movies or television shows that contain lots of violence. No, I’m not a tree-hugging hippie. I just don’t feel that behavior accomplishes anything productive and positive, nor do I like to glorify those type of acts, even if faked by Hollywood. I simply feel that our society has become self-centered as we forget the value in human interaction, kindness and selflessness. By seemingly forgetting these, I feel as if we too easily say, “Well it’s not me, not my life.”
If we want to honor those who were taken during this tragedy and the ones lost in earlier tragedies (way too many), then we need this to be a wake up call. It’s time to start taking care of others and to start remembering what it feels like to be kind to others. If you want to do 26 acts of kindness, awesome! Then do 26 more. Then 26 more. Keep going! I firmly believe that it takes one person to make a positive difference in the community, and others will follow. They always do.
Being kind to others should come natural to us, but sadly it doesn’t seem to be so in today’s society. I see too often people in a rush through a store, bumping carelessly into others without an apology or lacking the good social graces to say ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome.’ I witness manipulation to get a selfish end result, or laziness at helping others.
I could blame the new technology – smart phones that have enough apps to keep one person busy for days, or social media, like Facebook and Twitter, that make us feel connected to others. So why bother with face to face interaction? Pick up a phone to actually talk to someone? Ugh. Do something nice for others? What benefit is it to me? In my humble opinion, it’s a major benefit. If you want the selfish version – it feels good to help others. It feels good to smile at someone, to hear laughter and see happiness. If you want the unselfish version – because you should. And it’s so darn easy. Truly. I’m not talking about doing a major task, like volunteering for a food bank, every day. Simple acts. A smile, holding the door for another, sending a card (not an email or text!) to a friend to say hello. If you think these simple acts don’t matter, you are wrong.
The other day, Justin noticed a stack of sealed, addressed Christmas cards on the counter at the post office. Guess what he did? He realized the return address was a street close to the post office so he dropped off the cards to the owner. When I expressed how nice that was, he shrugged, saying it was no big deal. But I’m guessing it was a big deal to the woman who thought she lost her cards. That’s my husband though. He is incredibly kind and selfless without realizing it.
I took my mom to a doctor’s appointment last week. While I sat in the waiting room, several other people came in. A woman, in her 40’s, pushing a walker, with her arm in a big air cast, slowly entered the room. She carried a pain pump. She had some difficulty pushing the walker while holding the pain pump but made it to the front desk. I admit I usually pay attention to people who might need help because I’ve been there. I also wait a beat because I remember being on crutches for eight months and wanting so darn bad to be independent. Or my dad who swallowed so much pride when asking for help during his illness. At any rate, this woman looked a bit frazzled. As she set the pain pump on the counter, it fell to the floor. As she bent to get the pump, she bumped some brochures and clipboards with her cast, knocking those to the floor. I jumped up to help her. Then when she sat down several rows away, she dropped her wallet. I quickly got back up to pick it up for her. I could tell she was embarrassed and flustered as she thanked me so I acted like it was no big deal and assured her it happened to everyone at some point.
These reactions were instinctive. Perhaps the way I was raised by two kind parents, or it’s my gratefulness of being alive and healthy after a life-threatening illness. My other reaction – pure disgust at the remaining people in the room. Not one person made an attempt to help the woman. Some stared at her, others kept their eyes averted to their phones or the floor. Several people were closer to her than me, not once moving their lazy butts to help. After my disgust dissipated, I became worried that this is our society. Ignoring those in need. But, no, that’s unfair. It’s not all of our society. There are many good kind people in the world. And I’m not perfect. I’ve been guilty of watching someone in need from afar while I rush to an appointment. I’ve missed chances to smile at others because I’m wrapped up in my own worries. I can do better.
I admit I struggle with what’s happening in society. Maybe it’s not new. Maybe people acted this nonchalant about fellow citizens when I was younger and my parents did a great job of shielding my sisters and me from indifference and violence. But I see it now. Before I ramble on too long, I will get back to my point. It’s not too late to stand up and say we’re done with violence in our society. It’s not too late for our society to shift our way of thinking and acting. It’s not too late to start smiling more, helping others and simply living a more ‘connected to others’ life.
I’d like to think that I include caring for others and acts of kindness in my every day life. But I am committing to consciously doing something nice for the world around me every day. I’m committing to making this world a better place. One person can make a difference. Won’t you join me?