My instinct when hearing about a problem and even when seeing a problem walking by me is to instantly think of solutions. How can this problem be fixed? How can this person be or do better? I can’t fix most of what I see, whether on the news or walking by me at the grocery store, and that bothers me. (Just so you know, I am hardest on myself when it comes to fixing problems.) I am bothered by the sadness and apathy I see in the world, and I want to make it better somehow.
While I’m confessing here, let me also say that I’m a homebody. While there are others, one reason is that the visual stimulation overwhelms me when I go out in public. No, this is not a phobia, I promise. I just get so easily frustrated by people, by lives that are unhealthy in the spiritual, physical, emotional and relational sense. And that ill health affects all of who they are and what they will do – or not do – in life.
People seem in their own little worlds, unaware of how what they do or don’t do, say or don’t say, affects others, how it ripples out to affect their culture and world. Please know that I realize I contribute to this problem at times, but I have a great deal of control over changing that. I can’t make others change.
Fortunately, each person can instantly make the world better by doing small acts of respect. These small acts can not only brighten days on an individual level, they have the potential – as they accumulate over time – to affect change on a much larger scale.
Warning: These suggestions may rub some people the wrong way because they get at some habits that we carry rather close to us, and they force us to admit those habits may not always be beneficial. Yet, we need to realize that what often satisfies in the immediate can at the same time be contributing to a larger problem
1. Put your cell phone away. When a friend stops mid-conversation to text, I feel unimportant. When the guy behind me in the checkout lane gets his items mixed in with mine because he’s talking on his phone, I feel invisible. And when someone swerves like a drunk because he’s texting while driving, that makes me angry. The message being sent, really, is that the person on the other end of the phone is more important than the person standing in front of them, more important than having manners, and even more important than my life.
If we can learn how to keep technology from consuming us (watch for a future post on this topic), perhaps personal value will increase and depression decrease. Maybe that would make the world a better place.
2. Use your turn signal. And use it before you actually slow down to turn. Life hands us so many unexpected bumps, and we all could really use more warnings to help us prepare. We all could use less abrupt stops and turns.
Fewer driving frustration would significantly lessen the level of stress in a person’s life. Less stress would make the world better. Right?
3. Smile. There are a lot of unhappy people, probably largely because they feel unimportant and stressed. Research shows that smiling increases happiness and success. And the smile doesn’t always have to be genuine; even a forced smile brings these benefits.
As individuals, we can all play parts in shining light in this dark world through simple acts that require us to get outside ourselves by preferring and showing consideration to others. It’s these small acts that can instantly make the world better by helping people feel more valued and less alone. At least, I know that would make my world better.
AMPLIFY: There’s this crease in my forehead that gets deeper when I frown or am in deep thought and lessens when I smile and am more relaxed. I am so inside my head sometimes (I blame it on my melancholy, introverted personality), that I slight others by unintentionally ignoring them and probably frightening them with the crease that could hold a pencil. I need to get outside of myself, smile more, and decrease the crease.
DISCUSSION: What small acts do you think would make the world a better place?