I wanted to write something funny today, but my heart isn’t in it. I made the mistake this morning of reading the news online first and then the comments that followed. Why, oh why, do I read people’s comments? It’s never like the warm, fuzzy blanket of a blog. It’s more like an ice cold shower that screams “Wake up, the world is full of hate!”
The sense of despair can be overwhelming. People seem so willing to show their ugly, unmitigated sides because commenting online is a distant thing. Even my local online news station, which warned of car thefts while your car is warming up (we’re in the midst of a cold front here), brought out a slew of shoot first, ask questions later comments.
When I wrote my peace post regarding thoughts of aggression, several commenters mentioned the anger they feel when they see or read about the injustices of the world. I was, perhaps, a little blasé in my responses.
I’ve taught myself to know about things distant from me, without taking them inside, eating away at me like stomach acid in my esophagus. Intense empathy makes me ill and distraught and impotent with rage.
I make the choice to not let it take over, because I have an inclination towards depression. My depression does not make the world a better place. It doesn’t drive me to take action, it drives me up into a tree, curled up and hidden.
I am not Pollyanna, nor blind to the miseries of this world, but I know my place in it. I need to raise my child with love and confidence and interest in the world around her. I need to provide a sanctuary for my family to re-charge, to breathe and feel safe. I need to do what I can to make a difference in the space and community around me.
I’ve spent the early years of my life just fighting to stand upright, to not be swallowed by addiction and violence and fear. It was enough then, to take responsibility for myself. Now I take responsibility for the small world around me, learning to cultivate my own brand of kindness and compassion, learning to interact, to be committed, to be present.
As I get older, I’d like to believe that my reactions to the miseries of the world will become markedly more passionate. My daughter will be off on her own adventures. I hope that I will be willing and able to risk more, to let it inside, to the let the news and the horror burn until I’m fueled to action.
The reality is that I or my spouse might be in poor health, or we’ll lose a job or two or be the victim of a crime. The kaleidoscope shifts and we’re back to trying to stand upright, unable to bear more responsibility for the world at large.
I wrote my first novel with a focus on a dysfunctional family and how alcoholism had a huge impact. I approached it with the idea that ripples emanated from a single point of origin, to impact the community, the next generation, creating effects that lasted for years.
When I finished the first novel draft, the primary theme had changed. The ripples could also work for good. A single point of origin where kindness, compassion, integrity and perseverance existed could also, like ripples from a pebble thrown into a pond, continue for a long time and a large area.
I’ve had moments in my life when I was lost, despairing and isolated. All it took was one person, one kind conversation, one pat on the arm and I could lift my head, stand up straight and continue the journey. They probably thought nothing of it. If you asked them today, they would not recall the incident or the conversation. But I can.
So that is where I begin. I remember how little it takes to make a difference, this butterfly effect of human kindness. If we can take that into our hearts and into our daily life, we just might change the world.