Lately, I have read a few books about humans in all sorts of dire circumstances. Particularly, I have looked at aspects of today, and compared to life as it was 50-60 years ago. I try to stay away from the news, whether on various TV channels, or even the newspaper. What I pick up mostly is when I go on-line, especially MSN which is my home page on this computer. Of course I have political friends who keep me updated on things going on in Congress, and what idiotic things some of these politicians are saying.
At the end of World War II, there was a general lowering of the human spirit when the US military opened the camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, Ravensbruck, and other camps where Jews, gypsies, the disabled, and various others were exterminated. People were astonished when they realized the depths of what was happening, and how many people died. Then, after the Japanese surrendered, and the Red Cross and Lady Mountbatten opened the internment camps in the Far East, especially those working on the Burma railroad, the human spirit went even lower when the atrocities became public that were done to Americans, English, Dutch, and Australians in that area of the world.
The thing is, stuff like this was known by many who simply shut their ears and eyes to it, not wanting to know, and blowing off what was told about these prisoner of war camps. Humans simply do not wish to believe the worst about themselves. Because, of course, every human being has within him/herself the capability of doing exactly the same thing to one another. Only the civilized can defeat that black side of themselves.
These things have happened in every war or police action since. Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, the Gulf Wars. We turn our ears and eyes away from famines, bombers, stabbings, shootings, rapes, mistreatment of one another, and worse of all, of those who cannot take care of themselves. During the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, even we Americans who tout ourselves as being the most civilized people of all are guilty of atrocities and horrors. We turn aside and tell ourselves, I’m glad it is not me. And yet the day may come when it is “me”, and who will be there to care about “me”.
We may think to ourselves that politicians and those who buy them are not so bad when you look at one of the many embassies, or bombs in hotels in Jakarta or India, and breathe a sigh of relief that this is happening somewhere else. Poison in the subways of Tokyo? Not my problem. Bombs on the trains in Spain? Not my problem. Bombs in Dublin, or Belfast, or Paris, or London, or anywhere else in the world? Not my problem. Not to even speak about the bombs in Moscow or places where most Americans believe everyone is not worthy of our thoughts. Not our problem.
The thing is, it would be so much better if everyone learned to be tolerant of everyone else – to show kindness and compassion and love to all. There are a huge lot of people who do this all over the world, every day. But there are more who are surly, unfriendly, hateful, destructive – and who makes the newspaper, the television, the radio? What sells the news? What does the man sitting in his recliner drinking on his beer think about it? He yells about how horrible “they” are. The woman who is shopping cares more about what she is going to make for dinner. The youth tarting up for a great night out, a good concert, that cute person they might meet in the library, only care if their teeth are clean or if they smell nice. The gangsters standing on the corner only care if they can remain king of the neighborhood.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have become so inured to hearing about evils done by other human beings that sometimes I find it difficult to care too. And I hate that that has become a reality for way too many of us.
I know that each one of us, working alone, can not take on the saving of the world. It will take all of us, working together, to bring about some sort of peace and stability to this planet. Each of us needs to simply do our part, think with some common sense.
As I write these words, I realize that it is just too overwhelming to believe that anyone can do anything at all. We are at the mercy of those who lead us, at those who would bring us down, at those who are so afraid they will lose their importance, their leadership, their selfishness, and frankly, maybe it is easier to sit back, keep your head down, don’t interfere, and save your own butt. I know I am tempted every day to just sit and watch television, read books, drink my coffee, stay inside and don’t interact with anyone. I feel helpless.
But what I do try to do everyday is get out and mix with my neighbors. Smile at them, talk to them, ask if anyone needs my help. Be pleasant, don’t start arguments, thank those who give me help, even if it is a clerk or a bus driver. If just one of those people I have been pleasant to has a happier day because of it, then who knows how many people that one will touch, and pass on the same sort of pleasantness, niceness, compassion.
I would like every single person who reads this to think about this when you go out tomorrow. Be pleasant to everyone you meet, even if you have to pin a smile on your face, and bite your tongue if someone is rude to you. I think by the end of the day, you might actually feel good about yourself, and more at peace with what you have done.
I know on Facebook, we often have days among us set aside as a day for doing Random Acts of Kindness. Then we tell one another what we have done that day.
Try to make everyday a random act of kindness day. A pay-it-forward day. If that is difficult, try to set one day aside each week and tell yourself “today I am going to be kind to everyone I meet, smile, refuse to allow anything or anyone to bring me down”. If you can do that one day a week, then in a month or so, you may find yourself doing it two days a week, then four days a week, then six days a week, and finally, you will be so used to it you will do it every day of your life. One smile, one act of kindness, will ripple.
I know, I don’t want to smile at the man who is trying to force the XL Pipeline, or fracking, or such things, but rather than be surly or make a face at him, or cursing him out, at least just walk away. Soon, you might even see that if everyone does that, they might get the drift of how unpopular they are. Just don’t be violent.
I know as well that this whole thing probably sounds absurd, and soppy, and impossible, and silly. Still, try it and see what happens. Just bitching about things that bother you to someone else might ruin their day, and that might spread as well.
I remember an anecdote I read about a woman who goes into a store with her daughter, and proceeds to run down everything she looks at, is rude to the sales folk, gripes about quality, or prices, or that she isn’t being treated like she wants to be. As she and her daughter are leaving the store, she happens to glance in a mirror and says “Do you see that face?” They gave it to me in this store. And the daughter calmly says, “no, mother, you walked into the store with that face.”
Just remember, I love you all, and I hope that knowing at least one person has told you they love you will help you get past the next one who acts like they don’t.
Let us not turn out to be the next group of people who cause, or ignore, the next Dachau, Auschwitz, Burma railway, bombing in a hotel in New Delhi or Nairobi.