Why you should keep doing kind things. It does make a difference
Don’t let a negative world view swamp the good things you do
Of the many ways I could pass my time, volunteering is the most rewarding because when I feel helpless in a world that seems intent on self-destruction, I know that at the very least, I’ve done something to make the life on this planet a little better.
I recently volunteered to help a local wildlife sanctuary by sewing fabric pouches for orphaned and injured wildlife. While it’s a good thing to do, sometimes it feels like it’s not enough. But I’ve discovered that every small act does make a difference. Often, we just can’t see it.
I’ve spent sleepless nights wondering how I was going to save the world, single-handedly. I didn’t think anyone else cared. My friend nicknamed me, ‘Captain Planet’ because I was always banging on about saving the earth. I was sure I was the only one who really cared. I was wrong on many levels.
The ‘Aha’ moment came unexpectedly and changed how I see things.
Firstly, I didn’t realise until recently, how much one small act of kindness can make a real difference. When I volunteered to provide pastoral care in a local hospital, I felt overwhelmed by the number of people needing help. I could only manage about six visits per day. What about the rest of the patients?
It was my supervisor who opened a new way of thinking for me. She asked me, ‘What if you didn’t come at all? There would be six more people who’d have no one to talk to, other than medical staff, especially those without family nearby. To those six people, you make a world of difference’.
Of course she was right. I was focussing on the patients I couldn’t get to, instead of the one’s I could. It was a mind-altering moment.
Secondly, I needed a reality check. I could never save the world alone, but when I looked for the good, I discovered that I was part of an often silent little army, working away to make life better. People who get on with the work, who don’t need celebrity endorsements or their face splattered all over Instagram, unless it helps their cause.
It took me a while to come to this realisation because we live in a very lop-sided world, where our media and social media are biased towards bad, sensational and destructive news, not news that is good, life affirming or life enhancing.
I know I’m not the only one feeling the effects of 24-hour news cycles that thrive on bad news. In my country, the anxiety epidemic is through the roof and it doesn’t look like changing, unless we change. Bad news is everywhere. But so is good news, you just need to look a little harder.
In the past, we had three or four television networks, with half hour news bulletins that featured a few key stories close to home that impacted us directly, plus the occasional overseas story, with scant footage that was often days old by the time it hit our screens. Today, we are bombarded with real-time bad news stories from all around the world. It feels like there’s no escape.
I was one of many feeling increasingly overwhelmed. A tsunami of sadness and despair was burying me in the quicksand of hopelessness. I realised that this feeling would prevail unless I looked for the good.
As I write, the place where I live has experienced the hottest, driest winter and spring on record, despite being a sub-tropical zone. Spring rains have been replaced with devastating fires. Given these difficult climatic challenges, it would be easy to think it’s Game Over, but that would be giving up on human ingenuity. With my new outlook, I do believe that we can get ourselves out of the mess that we’ve created. We found the way in, we can find the way out.
Changing negative focused thinking to a positive one isn’t easy but it can happen with effort and desire. I’ve spent years analysing my thoughts and I’ve identified a propensity for doom and gloom thinking, mostly from inherited beliefs. I come from a long line of glass half-empty thinkers, so I’ve had to do a tonne of work on reframing my thinking; it’s constant and never-ending work, but the rewards are priceless.
Now, I’m not denying that bad things aren’t happening, or that we aren’t experiencing a change in our climate — absolutely we are. Nor am I saying that humans aren’t to blame for turning our pristine planet into a refuse dumping ground, because we have. But I believe all is not lost! In the words of the great scribbler Shakespeare, ‘Thinking makes it so’, and if that’s the case, then we’d better think good thoughts, positive thoughts.
Looking through my new glass half-full lenses, I’ve looked for good news stories and surprise, surprise, they do exist.
Here’s are a couple of uplifting stories.
Today I read about the Snowball Express run by actor Gary Sinise. It helps the families of veterans, particularly children of fallen soldiers, taking hundreds of children to Disney World. Sinise could be lying on a beach in Tahiti but he doesn’t, he chooses to spend his time helping others.
At a busy trauma hospital I recently met radiographer Renae, who has given her time and money to create a garden inside the hospital grounds for patients, families and staff to enjoy. She too could spend her spare time on a beach or lunching with friends, but she chooses to brighten up an otherwise sterile hospital environment for the benefit of others.
These are just two of thousands of good news stories, acts of kindness occurring every day, everywhere in the world.
It gives me hope.
So, as I sew another wildlife pouch and my egoic brain tries to tell me that what I’m doing isn’t enough, I’ll remind that unhelpful part of my brain that I call ‘Brainiac’, as in ‘The Bad Thoughts Maniac’, that I am one of millions of people around the world making a difference, every day.
Whether it’s visiting an elderly person, planting a tree, supporting veterans or making wildlife pouches, every act of kindness, stitched together, weaves a whole lot of good in the world.
As I sew my 40th pouch, I put all the negativity behind me and focus on the little animal that will nestle into the pouch I’ve made. It might not save a species, but to that little critter, it makes a world of difference.