I’m ashamed to admit that I really don’t do much to make the world a better place. I was never a candy-striper, never took on a little sister or volunteered at the Y. One Christmas, I donated to every charity that sent me an appeal and felt very benevolent… and ended up probably killing 200 million acres of trees with all the junk mail they sent me, and their buddies sent me, over the next year. At one point, I had enough return address labels to mail one letter a day for the rest of my life & never run out. But I moved. I haven’t donated since.
Sure, there’s the odd volunteer work – I’ve gone to LA area schools a few times to read to kids & help with creative projects, and once I spent a Saturday painting & cleaning a home for battered women & children – but these aren’t habits. Sometimes I give the homeless guy on the street my leftovers, or some change, and sometimes I give money to the people with those elaborate stories, who are probably scam artists, especially when the guy looks like my little brother and needs money for gas. (Although, I actually happened to see that particular guy buy gas with the $5 I gave him. So, maybe they’re not all scams.)
Well, it’s really not much, but I believe in general kindness. I smile at strangers, hold the door for people behind me, give a helping hand when it’s needed, and say thank you. I’m a good listener. I have a positive outlook that I hope is just a little bit contagious, and I try to contribute something good to everything I undertake. I know it’s small and, especially compared to all the things I’m not doing, pretty insignificant.
Except, what if everyone lived that way, with kindness and positive intentions? We’d have no need for charities or battered women’s shelters or soup kitchens. I’m just a drop in the bucket, but every drop causes ripples; if my smile brightens someone’s day, then maybe they’ll do something nice for someone else, and on and on. The idea of “pay it forward” is unfortunately a movie cliche, but stop and think about it. It’s profound. What you do, how you live, how you treat others matters. Everyone affects everyone else. Live with kindness.
I’m not saying that’s enough, but it’s a start.
Meanwhile, now that I’ve realized all I could be doing, you might just find me on a rooftop somewhere, hammer in hand, putting the finishing touches on a brand-new third-world house. Or at least sharing Amelia Bedelia laughter with some inner-city kids. Who wants to come with me?