Random thoughts about pursuing a slice of happiness

By the time I went to college at Kent State University, it was the eighties. I had taken two years between high school to live a little, work a little and figure out what I wanted to study. At that time, it had been over ten years since the infamous campus shootings of May. But while I was home on spring break, my youngest brother who was barely a teenager pulled me aside.

“Why are you going to a college where they are shooting people?”

“That was an event ten years ago,” I said.

He looked at me with disbelief. But I realized something. Yes he was just a kid, but even ten years later, lots of people, the radio and TV and educators were still talking about it so much that it to him, it was a current event. Not the past.

How it applies to now

If you are among the many who were caught in the political cross fire you’re in good company. As much as I tried to bow out of the bloodshed, there was nowhere to go where a battle of some kind was not happening. Workplace, home place, Facebook, YouTube…

I didn’t see a lot of love being shared. It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I started voicing my views, I could shrink my friendship pool overnight. I love my friends. I don’t love everything about them, but it’s okay that we are not identical. They don’t love everything about me, either. At work, I just want to keep peace with co-workers. I wanted to keep the peace with my black, white and Hispanic neighbors. According to talking heads on every channel, every network, every media source, racial divides did seem to be worsening and hatred and intolerance seemed to be rising like a tsunami. There seemed to be an escalating sense of panic and general mistrust among party lines, gender lines, spiritual lines. Racial, political and social unrest.

But wait. Really? Is that what’s really happening everywhere or is it just being blasted like a siren? Is it all just being repeated so often that it seems like it’s ongoing?

I clicked out. No social media no news feeds. I just began watching what was going on around me.

I am not minimizing what’s going on out there.

Maybe we need to shift our focus. Over the last nine months, I have seen a side of our country that made me ashamed to be American. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were so much more unified and flying our flags and feeling patriotic, filled with brotherly love for one another. We were rallying together. Remember? That side of our country made me proud of to be American. We’ve pulled together to help one another when the bad times hit. I love that we are so giving and thoughtful and rush to help when floods hit, when water gets contaminated, when communities get blasted by tornadoes or hurricanes. There is love in your hearts, lots of love. I have seen it.

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” — Mahatma Gandhi

While pursuing my happiness, I work. One of my jobs requires that I make a lot of calls. I talk to a lot of people. Sometimes the recipients are profane, they hang up, they can be rude and at times argumentative. I roll with the punches. That’s all part of the job. Occasionally, I meet delightful people. Total strangers. We talk for ten minutes, some have prayed with me, I’ve been thanked for caring enough to call, we have wished each other well and said goodbye. Those are some of the moments that make my job worthwhile. One particularly pleasant man said he has seen what is going on “out there.”

“As much as it is within my power, I am going to be more kind,” he said. “Open more doors, let people cut ahead of me, smile more, and say kind things to people.” I told him I would join that movement.

For several months, I have waved to more neighbors than ever before. Just engaging them, saying hello, letting them know they are seen. Thanking them for picking up trash when I see them. Checking in on them. It has changed the atmosphere here. Being kind doesn’t take much effort and the effects have been far reaching.

Not so long ago, I peeked in on social media when videos popped up about people doing small kindnesses to spread the love. I shared all that I came across and maybe you did too. It made me feel better knowing there were others that are not buying into hatred. No matter what is going on “out there”, we possess the power to make things better right where we are, in our corner of the world. It can start in your house, on your street, your job or in your own neighborhood. If you are kind to someone, they will almost always be kind to the next person. There isn’t enough kindness in the world, but I can share what I have. It’s the kind of wave I want to be a part of.

Sure, there’s a lot more to be done. But here’s the best news. February 17th is Random acts of Kindness Day is. You can be a part of it! Gather people together and make a project of it! Shoot videos of it and post them. I will share them!

We can coexist better. We can be more unified. All we want is our share of the happiness pie, right? Here are some ideas to get you started. Introduce yourself to your neighbors, compliment a stranger, be encouraging, let people merge-in during traffic, be thankful or reach out to a person who has made a difference in your life. For more ideas, Google” random acts of kindness.” Who knows, maybe you will be one of the lucky recipients!