Wednesday, February 10, 2016

For Valentine's Day: The Gift of Kindness

In the New York Times Daily Briefing yesterday I read this:  

The U.S. intelligence chief, James Clapper, expanded on the worries about the Islamic State and cyberattacks, but also noted threats from failing states, the migration crisis and, uppermost among nuclear threats, North Korea. “In my 50-plus years in the intelligence business,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I cannot recall a more diverse array of challenges and crises than we confront today.”

Okay.  Now we know that ISIS isn't the only threat we should be worrying about; there's plenty of other "challenges and crises" to make us afraid. 

It's hard to know how to react to such information.  A reading of history surely tells us that the world has never been a safe place and that the average individual has little control or even influence over the wave of history that sweeps him through life.  I myself have been lucky and have not been seriously impacted by war and especially lucky to be part of a privileged group (American, white, and educated) and therefore more protected than others from injustice and poverty.  But even that good luck can change in an instance, say if North Korea does unleash a bomb.

And if it doesn't, there's still the harsh realities of life that everyone faces. We all have our individual challenges ranging from the mundane to the profound. Life is full of disappointment and pain. 

But hey, this is a happy blog and life is also full of wonder and beauty so let's move right along to the good news.  We do have a great deal of power and control over how we react to challenges. We can decide what we focus on, choosing to see and elevate the good over the bad. 

And we can have enormous influence in the lives of other people by how we treat them.  

Which brings us to the Love One Another challenge extended by the Mormon church.  I am not a Mormon though I was raised in a Mormon family.  But it is clear to me that if we all took this challenge the world around us would be a better place.  These are things we can do, that we have in our power, that don't require government or other political support and that will help brighten the lives of everyone we interact with. Here's the challenge: 

These seem so simple when you read them and so hard to actually do. 
It's not easy to be patient with an "I've got it, Mom" fifteen -year-old. I had to forgive my husband just the other day for a small transgression and I know he's had ample chances lately to forgive me.  It'a hard for me to take the time and energy to listen to someone and see things from their viewpoint. 

The opportunities to overlook someones shortcomings are endless, especially if that "someone" includes you and your own shortcomings. It's not just other people we need to be nice to, it's also ourselves. 

A surprisingly hard challenge for me has been the fourth: Resist the impulse to categorize others.  I'm surprised how often I do categorize others.  Even in retirement I'm a busy person and it's efficient to label someone and not take the time or energy to see them as a person. 
The other day I caught myself not only labeling someone as "cashier" but as a "not very quick or smart cashier" just because he asked me if I was going to watch the Super Bowl game later that day. Catching myself, I slowed down and paid some attention to him for the few minutes we interacted.  That encounter made me change my assessment to "young, bored,under-employed guy who's doing a stint as a cashier while he gets his act together and meanwhile has to act friendly to the customers or get fired." I stopped seeing him as a thing and recognized him as a fellow human being. It made me feel and act nicer to him and may have made his afternoon just a bit easier to get through. 

I hope so, anyway.  After all, I was a "cashier" once and know what it's like.  We all have to get through the days whether they bring joy or sorrow, and if everyone would "love another" it sure would be make our days easier and happier. 

"The world would be a better place if that list was posted on everyone's refrigerator," one of my friends told me. 

Indeed it would.   

1 comment:

I'd love to hear from you!