The holidays are a good time for reflection. Thanksgiving encourages us to makes lists of what we are grateful for, and many of us reach out to the less fortunate and give our time and/or money. This attitude of giving stretches from late November until early January. We seem to think more about one another during this time, and there are more random acts of kindness.
During this season we also reflect on the past year and make plans, goals or a list of resolutions for the upcoming year. As I reflect on this past year, I have to admit I have been on edge and angry more than any time in the past. There is news of war, terror, mass shootings, natural disasters and lies filling our televisions, social media, newspapers, and magazines every day. I wrote a piece that was published in ROAR about fearing a nuclear war. I can’t ever remember such a heavyweight of bad news and fears to carry around on a daily basis. Combine all of this with my on-going breast cancer scare, and I have laughed less and cried more than I can ever remember.
Over the past year, I have snapped at my husband more. I have cursed at careless drivers with a vengeance. I have had less patience and more irritation with customer service representatives over the phone, and I have given countless dirty looks to dog owners who allow their dogs off leash or bring them into a restaurant, or grocery store (this simply grosses me out). I think I have been guilty of contributing to a world that is less kind, less compassionate, and less forgiving than it was a year ago.
I know that I am not alone in carrying a heavier load this year than last. Many of us know that critical changes are coming to our healthcare, but we are uncertain how it will impact us. Many of us have read the news and know that our taxes will be higher (I live in California where they have proposed getting rid of a deduction for income taxes) if the current tax reform bill passes. Many of us are frightened by the rise of nationalism and racism. So many of us can no longer peacefully and innocently gather in large crowds without at least planning a way of escape because of all the terrorism and shootings that seem to happen almost weekly or monthly now. There is so much happening. There is so much to make our minds uneasy. Peace seems distant and far away.
So I am here to say, there must be something I can do to get some of my joy back and remain engaged in the issues that plague our nation and the world. There must be a solution for me to be a part of creating more kindness, more compassion, more tolerance, less anger, more friendliness. I can make a vow to be nicer to the people I talk to on the phone. I can make a vow not to give the evil eye to dog owners who think mostly of themselves and not the comfort of others. I can try to tame my mouth when I see someone talking on the cell phone while driving (even though this is so dangerous and I find no excuses for it, and there is never a good reason to do it). I can smile at people I pass in the street even if they don’t leave me space on the sidewalk. And I can cut down my access to news. (This past year I have been in the habit of reading or watching news nearly all day and into the evening. I just can’t do that anymore and make a positive impact in the small circles where I have some influence).
I need to stay engaged in calling my senators, voting in elections and knowing the things that will likely impact me, my husband, my family, and millions of other Americans. I need to do that, but not at the expense of the little things, like buying a stranger coffee, thanking the barista who also shoulders most if not all of these things. And that is the secret for me. I am not alone. I am one among millions who are more uneasy, frightened, uncertain and feeling a tremendous burden. If I am unwilling to break out of this cycle of anger and upset, then maybe others will be unwilling too and our days will seem worse, not better.
I’m making an effort, starting right now to be a ray of hope, a streak of sunshine, a glow of compassion where ever and whenever I can. I have a feeling I will learn that I make a bigger difference than I have ever assumed, at least I hope so, and I hope to see that difference reflected back on the faces of people as we smile at one another in the street again.
It’s the holidays, a time to believe in the most powerful magic. As decorations go up all over the city, I’m believing, are you? I’m hoping for healing in my stocking this year, and I have the childlike faith to know that anything is possible – it really can happen. We can refuse to be a part of the problem by choosing to be the salve on so many hurting, frightened, hearts. I believe even a smile can make it start to happen. We say it over and over again; it’s the little things, so let’s start a revolution of little things.