What If We All Resolved to Be Better to Each Other?
What if this New Year, everyone made the same resolution and it was simply to improve whatever they could around them? I don’t mean tackling huge projects but rather taking small steps, like smiling at everyone they meet. What if we all just decided to be nice and do what’s right? What would change?
It’s so easy to get fed up year after year. The economy is in the dumps (or in the landfill at the bottom of the “Fiscal Cliff”); people are rude and lazy – they don’t say “excuse me,” they won’t get out of their cars, they treat our environment like their personal garbage can; and things only seem to get worse.
What are we supposed to do? The problems seem so large that it’s impossible to imagine them getting better. As we see with the aftermath of Newtown, it feels impossible to imagine a scenario in which people of all kinds agree to a solution and then actually enact that solution.
It’s hard to imagine an America where people don’t litter, where they think before they speak, where they aren’t rude and hateful to each other, where they don’t hurt each other. It’s hard to imagine a country where people think about others and put themselves in someone else’s shoes before being so quick to judge or dismiss.
Lying in bed the other night, thinking about all of this and more is when it hit me: This year, my New Year’s Resolution is simply to try to make the best of everything around me. I’m going to smile more, I’m going to ride my bike more, I’m going to try harder to feel empathy for others, I’m going to donate my time and money. In short, I’m going to try to ensure that everything and everyone I come in contact with is better for that contact.
My idea is that maybe this positive contact will have a ripple effect. For example, if I see the high school students in my neighborhood walking back from their lunch at McDonald’s, throwing their garbage on the ground, I’m not going to get angry; I’m just going to go pick up the garbage. Maybe other neighbors, or even the students themselves, will see me and decide to do the same.
Maybe if, the next time I have an encounter with a rude server or fellow shopper or driver, and I simply smile at that person and treat them with extra care, they’ll do the same for the next person. Before you know it, everyone will be just doing the right thing – thinking about others and the impact of their actions before they speak or act. It’s exciting to imagine what a normal day would be like in a world filled with thoughtful, selfless people. Things would change; that ripple effect would trickle down to touch every person.
There is no place for blame or for excuses in this resolution, only for action. That’s the beauty of enacting this change – you don’t have to organize anything, you don’t have to explain anything, you just have to do it.
Things have gotten so big and so bad that it’s hard to imagine ever finding a solution, but perhaps we are each the solution. If we each focus on fixing our own tiny corners, then the tiny corners will bind together and form a large swatch that will keep growing and growing until it covers everything. In this way, we don’t enact change, we simply are change.
Happy New Year.