Fellow humans —
The world feels heavy right now.
2020 changed all of us, in one way or another. People lost jobs. Businesses shut down. Society turned on one another, and a lot of people died. It was a year of turmoil and division, but if we can learn from it, hopefully it was also a year of progress.
It wasn’t hard to see that as the year went on, people all over — across the U.S. and the world — became more and more judgmental. More divisive. In some places, even downright vicious.
And in some cases, it was justified. But I look at the end result and wonder — if those people looked in the mirror, would they still like what they saw?
I heard folks say they were hoping for a fresh start this year. But as we already know, things aren’t going to change in an instant. 2021 is simply a continuation of time, and what to make of it is up to us.
Tension is in the air, and for good reason. But it doesn’t have to be the end of our humanity.
Even with the events of the new year already looming over us, it’s time to examine your life and make sure that through it all, you’re still a decent human being.
. . .
Everyone has something to be angry about — not just you.
Everyone has had to make choices that they probably didn’t want to make, and you might never know their whole story.
Most people are just trying to get by, trying to live their life the best that they can during what the media keeps referring to as “this trying time”. Adaptation to new circumstances has become the new normal.
I’ve never seen more division and hatred in the media and social media than this past year.
And don’t get me wrong — there were times I was incredibly angry too. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, my own family’s political views, the recent attack on the U.S. capitol — just to name a few big ones.
I’m sure you can think of many more.
But over the past few months, I found myself becoming a person I didn’t recognize. And despite my anger and frustration and bitterness, becoming a hateful person isn’t something I want or need right now.
And it’s probably not making your life any better, either.
. . .
You don’t know someone’s situation or their reasons.
Just to give you an example, last week I snapped at a cashier for no reason. She didn’t do anything wrong — she just couldn’t hear me through my mask. (A challenge I’m sure all of us have felt at some point).
Immediately I regretted it, and was ashamed for taking my anger out on her. Who knows how many irritated and impatient customers she’d already dealt with that day. How many per week, per month, all throughout this pandemic. Crabby people taking their bad moods out on whoever happens to be standing there behind the counter, or through the window.
But snapping at someone who’s just doing their job — that’s not me.
I’ve worked in food service and retail several times in my life, and know how many people expect the impossible, and then take their bullsh*t out on you. It’s exhausting.
When I got home, I wasn’t hungry anymore for the food I’d just picked up. I sat down and wrote out all the things I was angry about, and then thought about all the people I might’ve taken it out on.
There were more than a few instances I could think of. And I realized I’d allowed the past year to push my boundaries of kindness and who I wanted to be.
And I no longer liked what I saw.
. . .
The world doesn’t need another person spreading judgment.
I had a family emergency a couple of months ago, where I had no choice but to drive four hours to help my family member. It was a tough situation because it happened to be around Thanksgiving, so I knew there would be a lot of other people traveling — which is exactly what we don’t need during a pandemic.
But at the time, it was unavoidable. I was the only one who could get there quickly. So I went, knowing that some people who knew I was going but didn’t know why would judge me for it.
All over social media people were saying if you travel during the holidays, you’re incredibly selfish. And stupid. And while that may be true in some cases, the fact is that you never know someone’s story.
All over, people are miserable.
Some people live for seeing the ones they love.
And some people don’t have a lot of time and don’t want to waste it. Like my grandfather, who is isolated in a nursing home, seeing nobody and doing nothing, all day every day. He needs help with every little task, and can barely hold the phone up on his own anymore. Nobody can come to visit him, not even other residents of the home. It’s been like that for months — and there are thousands more like him across the country.
Can you blame him for wishing his family would just come break the rules so he could see someone he loves while he still has the chance?
. . .
Humans are meant to be social.
This past year there was a rise in mental health problems and suicide across the USA. The pandemic caused so many to lose jobs, homes, security, loved ones, and social interaction. And unfortunately, it’s not that surprising so many of us have suffered mental and emotional consequences.
Humans are social — we need interaction with others, just like we need food and shelter. It’s not just a want.
We’re literally wired to be social and connect with other people.
And to be clear, I’m not necessarily arguing that people should break the rules and just go wherever they want to connect with others.
But it’s one thing for someone to not care about anyone else and disregard safety measures just for the hell of it. It’s another thing entirely for someone to take a risk because it’s what they need to do to be okay, or for them to be able to care for someone else.
And because you don’t know their story, you may not be able to see the difference.
You don’t know if someone being able to see their family for the first time in months was the only thing that kept them from trying to take their own life. Sound extreme? Maybe before 2020. Not so much anymore.
. . .
Live and let live.
At the end of the day, many people are just trying to get by.
Across the world, people are dealing with a pandemic, economic crisis, racism, prejudice, political changes, poverty, and violence. We’re all doing what we can.
And while there are issues I’m passionate about and want to fight for, I also recognize that spewing venom at someone because they made a decision that was different than mine isn’t helpful.
So with all that’s happened, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you still like what you see. Of course there’s going to be anger. Passion. Bitterness. Sadness, maybe even despair. But are you still a decent human being?
Are you snapping at strangers who don’t deserve it? Are you criticizing someone without knowing the reason for their actions? And is walking around in anger, ready to pounce on someone who dares to disagree with you, really going to make the situation better?
We all have our differences — some more extreme than others — and I don’t expect everyone to suddenly agree on everything, hold hands, and sing kumbaya together.
But amidst all this chaos, please, take a moment to look at who you are right now. Because in the end, the fact remains that we’re all human. And it’s truly time we remember it.
A human who honestly wants to do better.
This post was previously published on Equality Includes You.
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