We are at a crossroads, people. The United States of America is at a crossroads. From here we can either make our world better…or worse. I’m praying for better. But that will require some effort.
People aren’t listening to each other anymore, at least not as much as we used to. As soon as someone with a differing opinion begins to speak (or post on Facebook), we stop listening and start thinking about what we can say to shut them down and make them feel stupid. This “positioning” we’ve been doing has led to a watershed moment in our country’s history.
For years, a growing number of people in the United States have felt unheard and invisible. As they grew more and more angry with feeling that way, they began to look for someone who promised to stand up for them, someone who, through sheer force of will, could make people listen. And someone came along. Someone who promised to blow up politics from the inside out. Someone explosive enough and dismissive enough to insult and demean all alternate viewpoints equally, basically bullying his way into power. Now, that man is the President. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.
So…where do we go from here?
We need a new tactic. I vote that we stop complaining, and start taking care of each other. Stop shutting people down, and start listening. We need to stop being so angry. If we take the time to pay attention to our heartbeat and our breathing until we’re calm, we can listen to each other, really listen — without judgement.
Start small. As you pass a homeless person on the street, look them directly in the eyes and smile…Remind them that they are not invisible. Or the next time you have a really great waiter, tip them an extra ten or twenty bucks — enough to make their day. Stop multi-tasking and start looking people in the eye when they talk to you. If you see a couple of policemen having lunch in a restaurant, pay their tab. Think of one simple way to make someone smile. Then do it again…over and over. You’ll be amazed at how much better you start to feel when you stop thinking about yourself all the time — and begin thinking about others.
We need to find tangible ways to look out for one another. And start sharing those ideas with our friends. Once we are responsive and not simply reactive, we can change the world. We can make it better, stronger, softer — simply by controlling the one thing we can control…our own actions.
I’ve had to be careful with my own behavior since the election. I didn’t want to pour more fuel onto the fire. We’ve had enough of that already. I had to step back for a while, reach out for the best part of myself. Only when I was calm enough, could I write something that might actually help, rather than hurt.
I finally realized that right now we have an opportunity to become more conscious, to step up and demand more of ourselves. It’s becoming increasing clear that this new administration is going to give us all a chance to practice looking out for each other. We need to rise to the occasion and look for ways to ease each other’s burdens whenever and wherever we can.
How? We need to stop thinking about what we don’t have — and start channelling what we do.
Donate…but not to a political cause. Not to a church’s agenda. Not to a divisive group. We’ve had enough division. Do your own research or ask advice, but make sure it is a charity that spreads kindness and not judgement. Search for a place to contribute that speaks to your heart, not your anger. Find a way to give voice to the voiceless. Take the time to see people for who they are and what they are going through — and love them for that. That’s how we make America great again. That phrase should not be a campaign slogan…It’s a call to compassion.
Step up and DO SOMETHING GOOD. If you can’t give money, give your time, your energy or your talents: bake, teach, tutor, volunteer. Give something of yourself. Give until you feel it.
SHORT ON IDEAS?
If you want to change the trajectory of a child’s life, simply let them know that they are seen…that they matter. It’s easier than you think. Call the principal’s office of an inner-city school near you and ask what they need. It might be as simple as school uniforms or sporting equipment, a musical instrument or craft supplies. If you’re up for a long-term commitment, you could mentor a child through Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America.
Animal shelters are always desperate for volunteers, supplies and funds…always. Offer your time, donate money or just call them and ask how you can help. Cleaning supplies, old towels, pet beds, kitty litter, food, collars and leashes are always a blessing to these places. Even an old washing machine might make all the difference. You’ll never know unless you ask.
If you want to help people rebuild their lives, donate clothes, supplies, toys or food to a shelter for abused women and children. Take one day to help Habitat for Humanity build someone a new home. If you have a soft spot for veterans, help them get back on their feet by donating to the DAV (Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust).
Take new toys and books over to a children’s hospital in your area. Buy bagels and coffee for your local firehouse or police precinct. Send a care package to a soldier away from his family.
Want to do three things at once? Donate to Puppies Behind Bars. They take shelter pups, train them with the help of inmates and give them new lives as service dogs. So with one donation, you are saving a life, lowering the rate of recidivism in the prison population and giving someone the service dog they need. (They also have a perfect score with Charity Navigator.)
We need to become Global Citizens. Sometimes we need to be reminded that the United States isn’t the only country on earth. It’s important to learn facts about other cultures and other religions rather than judging them simply because they are different. Start researching global charities like Heifer International, International Children’s Fund, and Animal Aid International.
How about a new Christmas tradition? Set aside whatever money your family can afford for one very special Christmas gift: $50, $100, $1,000. Think of something extraordinary to do with that money that will help ease someone’s burden. Make sure that it’s something that will make you smile every time you think about it and then use the money for that. (One year, I went to Costco and bought about $500 worth of pet supplies and dropped all of it off at different shelters around town. I still smile when I think of that.) Then write what you did down on paper, wrap it like a present and put it under the tree. Then, let the family open it together on Christmas morning. I guarantee that they will all remember it long after they’ve forgotten their other gifts.
Let’s change the world for the better…one moment at a time.
I’m game. Are you?
Charity Navigator is an excellent resource for checking out the financial responsibility and transparency of a charity. Here is the link to their website: http://www.charitynavigator.org
Puppies Behind Bars: http://www.puppiesbehindbars.com/home
The DAV – Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust: https://www.dav.org
Habitat for Humanity: http://www.habitat.org
Heifer International: https://www.heifer.org
International Children’s Fund: https://www.icfaid.org
Animal Aid Unlimited: http://animalaidunlimited.org