Once again, we Americans sit stunned in front of our TVs and wonder; what can I do?
It has been demonstrated with pictures and video the brave persons who ran to help those in need during the crisis in Boston. We heard of doctors and nurses who voluntarily showed up to work and runners who offered to donate blood. But, what can I do?
As is the norm for so many of us we get caught up in daily living. We work to pay the bills. We rush out the door to our jobs and hurry the day along until quitting time. We run home to the commitments we have signed ourselves up to do. We become irritated with the weather when it hampers our agenda. We rarely stop to notice the trees blooming in the spring. We ignore their summer shade and miss their glamour in the fall. In the winter we forget to sit and listen to the silence of snow as it falls. We overlook the laugh of a child or the gentle touch of our spouse. In short we miss life.
In forgetting to appreciate the many wonders taking place around us, we disregard the struggles of others. If you think you are having a bad day remember the person standing next to you may have it worse. The idiot who butted in line is perhaps worried about his daughter lying in a hospital with cancer. The slow-moving senior is probably grieving for the loss of their partner in life. Your neighbor, who can’t seem to take care of their lawn, may have more pressing issues, like paying bills since the lost of their job. Every day, we come across others who are losing a friend to a terminal illness, or suffering from one themselves. We run into adult children caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s. We encounter people who are going through a bitter divorce, or losing their child over a battle they can’t find a solution to.
You don’t know what those around you are going through, how their day feels to them. You may not understand the grief they are experiencing as they try to maintain their everyday lives, one that may be swirling so quickly around them, they are dizzy with fear. But, here is what you can do.
Be the person who is gracious. Smile and greet strangers as you go through your day. Open doors for others. Let the car trying to slip into your lane in front of you, in. Tip your waiter well, even if the service was poor. Be patient with the older person moving slowly and holding you up as you hurry through your day. Take the time to actually listen to people as they talk to you. Simply acknowledge that the person waiting on you, ringing up your purchase, answering your questions, or being rude is a human being. A smile for a weary soul can make the difference of how their day will feel to them as they crawl into bed at night. A simple gesture of kindness can give enough light in the haze of anxiety to push the receiver towards feeling some positive.
I understand small gestures can have a large outcome. On the days I felt low, as I drove to visit my dying mother. Even as I felt the glow of the sun and tried to enjoy its warmth, a smile from a stranger sometimes made all the difference. Just that small act of thoughtfulness restored my faith and allowed me to believe that things would get better. As I fought to get through my day, if I came across a rude person, I reminded myself; you don’t know what they are going through in their lives. I would try to return their impoliteness with charity on my part. Because, I hoped they in turn would be gracious to the next person. Small deeds can lead to tiny breaths of hope, which in turn may lead to big outcomes in the life of one or many.
What can you do? Kindness to others is my simple suggestion.