I am determined to be a caretaker of the good in the world, will you too?
1. DO good.
The get-your-hands-dirty good. The put-your-time-in-good. The check you send annually to a charity you support or the child you sponsor is amazing and necessary. This is important good, please keep up your support. But don't forget to participate in good through physical acts. Build something, make something, pack something up, go out and meet people. This is the kind of good that will keep you inspired to see how much your good is needed, AND (sometimes even more importantly) how much good is already happening when you weren't looking directly at it.
2. Find the kind of good that feels natural to you.
This isn't selfish good, this is practical and powerful. We are each good at different kinds of things in life, so it's natural that certain kinds of good deeds or volunteering feel easier for you, simply because it's in your wheelhouse.
I enjoy planning, so being the coordinator for volunteer events doesn't feel like work, but for someone else that level of involvement might be overwhelming or stressful. I have a close friend who can whip up dinner for someone in need like it's no big deal, for me though, this kind of giving leaves me all stressed about having the right ingredients and always running too late to actually deliver it to the person!? Obviously, stepping out of your comfort zone is valuable experience, but don't be afraid to keep doing what works too. You'll be more likely to keep doing what feels natural because it won't feel like work. What the world needs is the good that YOU can provide joyfully and frequently.
This is a universal language that transcends all ages. Don't wait for the other person to smile, be the one to make the first move. Wave at your neighbors, say hello to the little kid who is staring at you in the check out line, be a stranger that you'd like to meet. And don't give me any of that 'resting b*tch face stuff, we all should be focusing more on making our Smile Reaction Time quicker anyway.
4. Clean up your digital INput.
The internet is a sneaky little beast and you know what it's really good at? Trying to understand each of us and our habits. So if you're clicking on, liking, commenting, or sharing certain kinds of things, those kinds of things are going to keep showing up for you to see. See, the internet thinks it's being helpful, but what it's really doing is keeping us plugged into a one-sided view. If you are depressed by the state of the world, it might be because you are only seeing one side of the world. There are good, inspiring, amazing things happening, but you have to know how to look for them.
Four steps to clean up your digital Input:
1. First things first, clean up that newsfeed! Click on that little arrow in the left upper corner of a status and hide the things that make you frustrated.
2. 'Like' happy, inspiring pages (SoulPancake, BrightSide, Humans of New York, UpWorthy, TED, Kid President) and also local businesses, events, and groups to add a positive boost to your newsfeed (follow things that make you feel inspired on all social media: twitter, instagram, blogs, etc).
3. Know what's going on by keeping up to date with the news, but you don't need to sit on the edge of your seat for the seventh update to the 'if it bleeds it leads' stories.
4. UNPLUG all together occasionally; frequently! Go outside, look people in the face. Just get away from the input entirely for awhile.
5. Clean up your digital OUTput
What was it that all of our mommas told us, 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.' That lesson still applies to adulthood, friends. Recognize that as someone who posts to the internet via any method, you are a contributor to everyone else's digital input. Are you posting and sharing messages that contribute to the good that's in the world? Are you someone that gripes about being tired of only ever hearing about a big, bad, scary world? Take ownership that your shares also contribute to what we all see.
Understand and respect the fact that complaining never, in the history of the universe, actually solved any problems. Complaining about something does not lead to making it better, complaining about it frustrates and hurts the people that are already doing something. If you want something to be better, go try to make it better.
When it comes to ourselves, we expect everyone to extend to us the benefit of the doubt: we are in fact a regular person with flaws and who makes mistakes, so we expect other people to turn a blind eye when we are not our best selves.
But often times when it comes to other people, especially strangers, we expect their finished, polished version. If you find yourself getting ready to judge someone else's behavior, stop and repeat this phrase in your mind, 'I actually know nothing about this person.' We don't know what their day has been like, what their life has been like, how they were raised, or what they've suffered or had to endure, what they're worried about. Ya know, granted, maybe this person really is just a horrible human being, but in my experience, that's incredibly unlikely.
Just like us, they're a regular person with flaws, and who makes mistakes, and who has had a million experiences similar and radically different in life than we have had. A good thing to do in these situations is to be patient and offer a smile. The best thing to do is to ask if they need help.
7. Do good anyway.
When it feels too big, too scary, too sad, too frustrating to continue to be vigilant to the good in the world, look for the good anyway; do the good anyway. There have been times in my life that while I was in the middle of an act of kindness, a person made me feel so small and unimportant. Maybe because they belittled the value of what I was doing, or because they criticized the way I had done it. Regardless, it hurts, it makes blood boil, it makes you feel like screaming, "Why do I even try at all!?"
Secure this resolution deep inside of your heart so that when the going gets tough or frustrating, you can come back to it again and cling to it: No matter how negative it all may get 'out there,' within my own small area of the world I will tend to kindness so that it reflects a world I dream about. Maybe your small area of the world is your home, your family, your office desk, your corner of the web, your own heart and mind.
YOU can choose to be kind. I hope you will. And I will too. And in this way, we can each be caretakers of the good that is in this world.