Will giving up that parking space solve the world’s problems? Well, probably not, but it’s a start.
In a world run by (and full of) assholes, being a good person is a revolutionary act.
[Note: I started writing this article on a bad morning after a bad night following a bad afternoon; I was (and still am) quite angry about certain happenings in my life, but, going through this list, I found a bit of peace in thinking how we can all make things a little better for everyone. A key component of being a good man- or human being- is not letting your hostility leak out onto other people and infect the world at large; if you can find a way to use that energy for good, you’re making the world a better place]
As we have dived into the holiday season, one shared by religions and faithful throughout the world, we find ourselves doused in hatred. Division and insensitivities are everywhere, people telling us all that we should be hating and fearing and turning away those in need, because we should be controlled by our fears instead of our goodness.
It can be hard to be a good man in times like these, even as these same groups tell us that ours is a “Christian” nation- and Christianity was founded and is based upon the general tenet that people should be good to one another.
But, regardless of your religion or beliefs, there are a few simple practices that you can undertake in order to make this a better holiday season for everyone. And these practices, if not limited to the holidays, can actually help make the world a better place for everyone. It’s easier than you think.
1. Stop fighting over that prime parking spot
In a season loaded with crazy shoppers trying to get to the stores first to get whatever special holiday deals are out there, malls and stores across the nation are crowded to the brim. Even just getting to the grocery to pick up stuff for family dinners can become a taxing reality, because there’s always those people who will park their cars in the middle of the lane and wait for ten minutes because they see a person loading up and getting ready to leave. Ask yourself- is it worth sitting for ten minutes so you don’t have to walk an extra 50 feet? You’re not saving time in that equation, and you’re holding up everyone in line behind you. And some may think, Well, if I don’t do it, the guy behind me will. You know what? Let him. At least you’re not being part of the problem. In a world overflowing with major issues, is it really worth freaking out over who gets the best parking spot?
2. Let someone go ahead of you in line
Same as above- I’ve seen people actually get into shouting matches over who’s going to be the first one into that just-opened checkout line. Weigh how much time you spent trying to find that shortest line, and how much you stressed over getting to it, and how much energy you spent being angry at that person who got in ahead of you, or who is buying 132 items and using every coupon they can; is it really worth it? You’re not changing anything, and you’re just making your own day worse, and possibly their day as well.
3. Smile. For no reason at all.
Yeah, I get a little weirded by people just walking along with a smile for no reason, but I still feel better after seeing them, especially when compared with the huddled masses hurrying along with scowls. When I worked in retail, no matter how lousy a day I was having, a smiling and friendly customer always did a little to pick me up. So, whichever side of the counter you’re on, flash a smile and see if it doesn’t change things a little. And, you know what? Even if it doesn’t, smile anyway. If nothing else, it’ll help you out.
4. Plans change. Roll with it.
Amid all the gatherings and events and catastrophes throughout this season, there are bound to be cancellations, additions, alterations, delays, emergencies, and everything you thought was set in stone can crumble down around you. Chaos abounds. You know what? Roll with it. This is especially hard for me, as I tend to take it personally when things go off-course and I feel like I’m getting the short end of everything, like I’ve been bumped down the priority list. I had a date stand me up last week-no call, no notice, just didn’t show, and I got quite angry about it. How inconsiderate can you get?! Did she not understand I could have been doing other things, I cleared my schedule and kept it open? And this particular date was her idea! I even thought, repeatedly, about contacting her and bitching her out about it- but then I realized, what good would that do for either of us? Sure, venting my frustrations might relieve pressure on me for a moment, but it certainly wouldn’t make her regret her choice, it would make me the asshole in the equation, create more hostility and my life would not improve one bit. So I just said, Life is short, and moved on. It’s not always that easy, but the question to constantly ask yourself- will getting upset help anyone?
5. Turn that energy into something better.
One of the best things you can do for yourself, and everyone else, while feeling stressed and overwhelmed this season, is to use that frustration and rage to improve things. Feeling overwhelmed by the chaos around you? Take a long walk- even if it’s cold outside, being in nature can improve your mood and your physical fitness. Do some work around the house- don’t let those tasks remain undone while you sit and stew in your antipathy. Call a friend, talk about things beyond the holidays, write an email to someone with whom you’ve fallen out of touch. Write a blog, be creative, find some way to expend your energy in a positive manner- that’s what started me on this article, come to think on it.
6. Above all, let people be.
Every day, but especially this time of year, you’re going to encounter people who are inconsiderate, who are doing that with which you don’t agree, and some who are just trying to piss you off. You’re not going to change them by rising to the bait, any more than our nation can change the way people feel about us by bombing the crap out of them. Sages throughout history have attested that anger cannot defeat anger, and hate can’t beat hate. This one can be tough, but you’ve got to remember that freaking out and going off on someone is not a solution, it just makes things worse. Sometimes, you just have to let people be, and, with that, you can improve yourself; remember how that person was, and then go forward and try to not make others feel the same.
Will it solve the world’s problems if you follow these steps? Well, probably not, but it’s a start. If everyone did, it’d go a long way forward, and would certainly help make the holidays better for some. Shakespeare wrote, in The Merchant of Venice, “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
So go throw some light out there!
Hope everyone has a happy holiday season.
Photo: Israel Orlandi/Flickr