It has to start with you.
Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, you are undoubtedly distressed because you have seen your country devolve into dogmatism, repudiation, and impertinence, teetering on the precipice of madness. Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan now feel emboldened enough to brazenly act out in public knowing that there will be little disavowal from a citizenry that is already exhausted and disheartened. Lifelong friends and family members are no longer on speaking terms. Rudeness and name-calling have become the bookends to a nation that has seemingly broken apart at the seams.
So what can you personally do about it? How can you be the solution – and not the problem?
Hold the door to a stranger. A simple random act of kindness goes an incredibly long way.
Call or write a “former friend” who you have lost over this election and ask them if they need a helping hand in friendship or support for anything. If they “snark” on you, move on and wish them a good day.
Make people laugh. Humor is the most human and emotive instinct we have. It is one of the most salient qualities that separates us from animals. There is truth to the notion that if we all couldn’t laugh, we would go insane.
If you see someone struggle in every way, say the magic words: “May I help you?” They will be stunned and then grateful that you reached out to them.
Show compassion and respect to everyone you come across in life. Try to adhere to the old Cherokee adage, “To give dignity to another is above all things.”
Be very skeptical of what you read on the Internet and what you see on television. It’s almost always one side of the story.
If you are retired, volunteer to teach a young person how to read. If you are a young adult, volunteer your time to Big Brothers or Big Sisters. Give of yourself whatever you do and whatever situation you are presently in.
Smile to a passing stranger. That might be the only kind gesture they receive all day.
When a senior citizen enters the room, get to your feet. They deserve your respect.
Refrain from posting political perspectives on Facebook and other forms of social media. You won’t change anyone’s mind, but you will assuredly raise the blood pressure of those who feel differently than you. Instead, post a copy of your favorite picture or painting. Share your musical passions. If you come across a good book, pass the information along. People may ignore your political perspectives but not your taste in literature.
Plant something in the ground that you will eventually eat.
Treat children with a sense of both respect and astonishment
Make forgiveness an active verb.
Read novels that will restore your faith in humanity: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel; Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; Wonder by R. J. Palacio; A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers; The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving; We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, and Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.
Don’t frown so much. Smile. As Charlie Chaplin once wrote in a great song he composed, “You will find that life is worthwhile – if you just smile.”
Say thank you and please as a matter of course.
Close the door on narrow-mindedness.
Imagine what life must be like for a refugee or a homeless person. As Atticus Finch said to Scout: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Always be gentle to the youngest and the oldest of human beings.
Recycling should be a daily habit. Where sweaters; keep your heat down; conserve energy by not walking more and driving less.
For every coin you have, keep it in a large container. At the end of the year, give the collected money to a local charity, preferably a food bank.
Rather than lecture and pontificate, be humble out of defensiveness, say you “don’t know.” Much of the time in life, we don’t necessarily the answers.
Manners seem to be a lost artform these days. Revive it!
Do something you once did regularly when you were young such as ice- skating, shooting a basketball, playing checkers, or painting a landscape.
Take long walks.
Invite a friend you haven’t connected with for a long time for coffee or tea. Make sure you serve some cake with it!
Listen to music that soothes. “The Theme to Our Town” by Aaron Copland has always done it for me time and time again. So too has virtually anything recorded by Billie Holiday, Nat Cole, Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Eva Cassidy. Reconnect with those artists who are intensely human – Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Winslow Homer, Dorothea Lange.
Find something to do in life that helps others.
Look up at the stars in wonder.
Say such seldom-used expressions as, “I’m sorry,” or “I could well be wrong” if it ever applies to you even remotely. You will be astonished how gracious the response will be.
Make kindness your most visible attribute.
And, most importantly, remind yourself that you are never alone. No person is an island. We are always here for each other.