Even the casual follower of this blog, not to mention anyone who knows me personally, knows that I am a big fan of Mr. Rogers. A host of a children’s television program, but also a modern day teacher and philosopher who mastered the art of human fundamentals. That is to say he could break down the most complex subject so that children could understand. Divorce? He had a show for that. Senseless violence? He was able to talk to children about that. In doing so, he took subjects that were multi-layered and broke them down to the most basic aspect.
By doing this to benefit children, I think it had the unexpected result of benefiting adults as well. Just as a star athlete will practice the basic moves in which their sport is made of, we as adults must practice basic emotional and societal actions. There are steps such as finding a way to not only express our feelings in a healthy way, but allowing others to do the same that can make a huge impact on the world. Discovering what to do when you are mad. How to help yourself when you feel lonely. These are lessons that Mr. Rogers taught to children every day on his television show but that many of us have forgotten in this crazy work-a-day world.
The quotes in the two pictures I have featured represent 2 paths to changing the world. Sounds like a bold claim. Follow 2 quotes from a man who used to host a television show for children and we could change the world? Remember how an athlete becomes a star. They practice the fundamentals every day until they can do them without thinking. Let us get back to our human fundamentals. At a basic level all of humans have a great deal in common. We all want to be loved. We all want to be treated well. We all would like to be significant in some way. We want to feel like we make a difference.
Let us look at these two pieces of advice. The first one is to “offering, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.” He implores us to imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like. Can you imagine what your neighborhood would be like if everyone offered just one kind word to another person? If people walking around complimenting each other makes you think of a ‘neighborhood of make believe’, that should tell you how far we have strayed from human decency. How difficult is it to offer a person one kind word? How much effort does that take? Even offering them one kind thought. Is that really that difficult? Of course it isn’t. So why is it that imagining people doing that seems so far removed from reality? What can we do about it? We can let it start with us. When you see your neighbors share with them a kind thought or at least a kind word. Watch the difference it makes. Become that agent of change.
The second quote is a little more complex in both thought and words, but still something even a child could understand and certainly something an adult could do. It really breaks down into 2 sections. The first is, “To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now” A few things I would like to point out. First is the word strive. We may not always be successful in our attempts to accept those who are different than us. It takes a great amount of patience and compassion. Not only with the people who are different, but ourselves who may fail to do so. What is important is that we are striving to do so. If our intent is to love and accept our neighbor as they are, more often than not we will succeed in doing so. In the times we fail, we can apologize and even ask for their help in understanding. The second part is to “go on caring through the joyful times and through times that may bring us pain.” Right now a lot of people are experiencing pain and tough times. All of them for their own reasons. It may be difficult to understand what they are facing if we ourselves have not faced similar situations. It is for that reason it is so important that we go on caring for our neighbors.
It is the basic things that will allow us to become a united people. It is being loving and caring for each other. In this global world and economy that will live in, it is understand that we are all neighbors. We have the unique ability to affect people not only in our direct neighborhood, but in our world neighborhood as well. Will we use that power to divide or will we use it to show love to our neighbor and bring us closer together?
I must confess to not being terribly familiar with this legend, but it brings up a good point. What if all of the animals that we have come into contact with were to judge us? I am going to take this to an entirely different level and ask the same thing about the people you come in contact with. Family, friends, coworkers, the server at dinner last night or the person who cut you off in traffic. Is it easy to be nice to all of these people? No. Is it always easy to be nice to us? I think we would also agree that the answer is also ‘no’.
Do we not appreciate it when, despite our own poor behavior, someone still treats us nicely? I know I do. We have discussed, numerous times, how important it is to treat everyone with dignity and respect. We never know what someone else is going through. We have also mentioned that being kind to others can often have a ripple effect. Small random acts of kindness can change the world. So work hard and be nice.
I cannot be 100% sure what waits for us beyond this physical existence. Could all the animals we have come in contact with be there to stand in judgement of us? Could all of the people we have met in our lives be there waiting as well? Maybe. Maybe not. What I do know is that in the physical world we live in right now there is no reason to treat each other any other way. If the fear that these people may be your judges in eternity helps you remember that, I am all for it.
Today’s world may seem like it is on the brink of collapse. With COVID-19, murder hornets, doomsday media and politicians impersonating chicken little on every television station things can seem fairly grim. What may appear even more daunting is the ability to turn it all around. There are certainly things we can do to limit the amount of negativity filling our eyes and ears. Turn off the news, or at the very least limit our exposure to a certain amount of time each day. Get rid of Negative Nancys on social media. Fight our urge to post the latest hot button negative topic we have just read.
These are all great ideas and will help us limit the bad but the question still remains, what can we do to start a positive shift in the world? Trying to change the negative can not only be exhausting, but a complete waste of energy and time. An axiom that I not only teach, but have had great luck in following can serve us well in these trying times. The best way to reduce negativity is to increase positivity. Simply by adding kindness to your world, you will not only make your world better, but make the world better for others. This may seem small if not even insignificant.It is not. Consider the ripple effect. If you restore someone else’s faith in humanity with your kindness, this in turn will help them from adding more negativity to the world. This is turn will limit the negativity those they come in contact with will experience. Multiply that by one person you come in contact with every day and that will be 7 people a week, 30 people on month and 365 people a year! You can begin to see the power of this.
It is true they may be in a rush to relieve themselves. We have all been there and it is not fun. They could also be driving on the way to say goodbye to a loved one who is fighting for their last breath. Perhaps they just said goodbye to a loved one and their mind is not focused on driving. Most of us have been there too. How would it feel is someone added even more stress to that situation. Maybe they are just someone full of anger and rage. If we add even more to that feeling, what do you think will happen when they get home to their family? How will they treat the next person they come in contact with? Now, how do you think an act of kindness and understanding will affect them? How about seeing a smile through a car window? In an age where actually seeing a smile on someone’s face is rare, that could really help.
Another aspect to consider is the difference your actions make in the world of another. As mentioned often in this blog I have a way to diffuse my stress when people drive creatively around me. I jokingly say to myself, or Margie who happens to be in the car often, “Maybe they have to poop.” It is a little something silly that changes my state but it does a lot more. It reminds me there are two sides to every story. I could just assume this person is a jerk for driving in a rude and unsafe manner. I could even honk, wave with one finger or some other dazzling way of letting them know exactly how I felt. Will it help them drive safer in the future? Perhaps, but highly unlikely. What is far more likely is that it will increase the amount of anger and stress they are experiencing and will increase their reckless driving.
The point of this post is to never underestimate the power of seemingly small acts of kindness. It may not seem like it will change the world, but that is exactly what it does. We especially change the world for the person whom we act kindly to. In turn, they act more kindly towards others. This spreads and the kindness makes a far bigger difference than we can imagine.
We have spoke at length about how to deal with feelings of fear and negativity. What happens on those days that you just can’t find any positive thoughts no matter how hard you look? Is your place of work where happy feelings go to die? Does even driving up to the building fill you with dread? Maybe every word that comes out of your mouth seems to cause disagreements with those around you. Trust me, we all go through periods of times like that. When we live in a world filled with darkness. It is then that you must switch from looking for the sunshine to being the sunshine. The million dollar question then becomes, “How on earth can I find sunshine to spread, when I can’t even find any sunshine in my own head?
This goes back to a lot of the tools we discuss in this blog and that are mentioned in my book A Happy Life for Busy People. You will find a link to purchase that book at the end of this blog. There are a few things we can do that only take minutes a day that can add sunshine into our life. It is for this reason I recommend doing these before the negativity starts to affect you. Meditation, vision boards and happy playlists. For more details on these and many other activites feel free to search this blog and the pages of the afore mentioned book.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, you can increase your happiness by giving it away. By shifting your focus from all of the negativity in your own life, to bringing light to someone else’s you will increase your own. In addition to the feeling you will get from seeing the smile light up their face, you will walk away with a feeling of accomplishment. Why a feeling of accomplishment? You have brought a great deal of positivity to a world that sorely needs it. That is a feeling that will stay with you long after you have left the smile you created.
How important is one small act of kindness? Let us do the math quickly. There are 7 billion people on earth. Even if we could achieve a 50% rate of people doing random acts of kindness that would be 3.5 billion smiles created. 3.5 billion positive moments brought to light. Imagine living in a world where that happens. It may sound like a crazy dream, but that is only half of the people. Can you imagine if we could get close to 75%? It is not out of the realm of possibility. How can we achieve this? Start with ourselves. As many days in a row as you can do at least one act of kindness. Even if you only did this on the weekends that would be 104 smiles you created a year. Do you think this would affect the state of the world? Feel free to leave any suggestions for kind acts in the comments below.
Another great example of a picture is worth 1000 words. I will do my best to expand on this picture and keep the word count below 1000. Everyone blooms in their own way reads the caption of the photo. Represented here is someone playing music, someone walking in nature, someone being greeted by a dog and lastly, it appears and adult holding a child. Each of these experiences are causing that person to bloom. What exactly does that mean? I interpret blooming to mean allowing more of themselves to show. Having the self-confidence or happiness to cause us to reveal more of our true nature to the world.
I particularly enjoy the last photo of the adult and the child. As you can see the love exchanged between them is causing both of them to bloom. I wonder if the same could be said of the dog, or the people hearing the music the person in the first photo is playing. Becoming more of ourselves is the greatest gift we can give the world. Living a life that feeds your soul is about the most important thing you can do, not only for yourself, but for others as well. What the world needs most is individuals whose souls are on fire.
To that end, my challenge for you is to find what causes you to bloom. Do more of that. How do you know what causes you to bloom? It is whatever makes your soul feel on fire. Ask yourself if you woke up tomorrow with no financial worries, what would you do? How about the next day? In my case, I love going out for coffee with friends, listening to some classic jazz, reading and learning things I can do to improve my life and those that I care about, and sharing what I have learned with all of you who follow this blog. At the end of each day what feeds my soul the most is laying next to the woman I love and falling asleep in each others arms.
One more important element to consider is what feeds the souls of those around you. Encourage them to not only discover that, but devote time to it as well. When those around you are living from a place of fulfillment and are fully in bloom you will certainly notice a difference. This is also another reason in a long list of reasons to be kind and encouraging to others. You never know what inspires them. If you see a local musician playing encourage and support them and their passion. See another person out enjoying nature? Pass on a smile and a quick hello. Let people pet your dog while you are out walking them. Also make sure to love not only your children, but everyone in your life. By doing so we will all bloom. Like a garden full of flowers in bloom, the earth will become a truly magical place.
It would seem most of us would love to change the world for the better. Certainly, if you read a blog such as this you are looking to lead a more amazing life. Everyone is looking for that grand gesture that can affect millions of people. I think that is a great thing and I would certainly encourage you to keep doing just such a thing. There is, however, a much simpler and quicker way to change the world – start with just one person. I recall hearing how a Jewish family gave Louis Armstrong his first trumpet. In this case they not only changed the world for Mr. Armstrong himself, but he in turn changed the world for both musicians and everyone who listened to his music. There are countless stories like this one. By changing the world for someone, we are, in a way, planting a seed. That seed of kindness can sprout and grow in that person and they can go on to change the lives of others. This means that by doing something truly kind for someone will not only change their life, but they could go on to change others who will go on to change others and that can continue for a lifetime. This ‘ripple effect’ of kindness is one of the quickest and most impactful ways to change the world. It is the best and most honorable legacy we as humans can leave behind – positively impacting the lives of others.
I saw this picture on the Facebook page of my local neighborhood association. (That would be the East Allis Neighborhood Association.) I found it to ring so true. A lot of us can fall into the rut of thinking there is nothing we can do to change the world. This is far from true.
One of the problems that can generate such thinking is having us think we need a grand gesture in order to make a big difference in the world and the lives of those in it. It is the little things that make the big differences. To prove this is more than a cliché saying that you can find on a Hallmark greeting card, I am going to share two personal stories with you that reflects how this can work both positively and negatively. I think once you see both sides of the equation you will begin to not only intellectually appreciate this, but understand it emotionally as well. This is important because once something gets into our spirit we are more likely to act on it.
I am going to start with the negative example for no other reason than we can end on a positive note. The other day at work I was checking with a group of mail carriers to see if they had anything to go to the other post office to which I was headed. That day I happened to be wearing a new colgne that I just purchased. I am not sure how you are, but I am always a little nervous when trying a new fragerance for the first time. As I passed one of the carriers she expressed her displeasure on how it smelled to her. Not that big of a deal. Normally that would just be a valuable source of feedback. It was, however, they way it which she did so that made all the difference. Instead of letting me know she did not find my new scent pleasing one on one, she began yelling to the whole post office about how terrible it was. To her this was no big deal, but it threw my day for a loop. Considering I have never said anything but compliments to this lady, it really got under my skin. Her small act had a rather big impact on my day.
On the exact opposite side of the coin, I would like to share a great example of how a simple act can make someone’s day. I was at home and had just stepped out of the shower. Wearing just the bare essentials, shall we say, I was digging in the closet for a shirt to wear on a special date I was taking my beautiful lady on. That very lady stuck her head in the room I was in to check on my progress of getting ready. Observing me looking for my shirt in the closet she remarked, “You look very sexy my love.” Mind you her and I always do our best to make sure we point out things we love about each other often. She doesn’t often use the word ‘sexy’ and that really made me feel good. I work hard to look appealing for her and to know that was working really meant a lot. For the rest of our date I had a smile in my heart thanks to her off-handed compliment.
Whether it is paying someone a compliment, picking up a piece of trash to help the neighborhood look better or making a small charitable donation, it is the little things that make a big difference. You may think how can picking up one piece of trash make my neighborhood look better? If we extrapolate that over a few hundred neighbors that is a lot of trash! Now what if those same 200 or so neighbors decide picking up one piece of trash is not worth the effort? Now you have 200 pieces of trash floating around the neighborhood. The same works for the charitable donation. I have roughly 40,000 followers for this blog in about 100 countries. The thought of what it would be like if each one sent me $5 has not escaped my thinking. To them $5 would most likely not be that big of a deal, but multiply that times 40,000 and it becomes substantial. If they all decided that donating $5 would not make much of a difference, no money would show up at all. Think of how this works for your favorite charity next time you ponder if your small donation would make a difference.
We may all not be able to do the grand acts we desire, but we can all do something. By doing even a small something we become part of the solution. If we decide that a small act is not worth bothering with, we remain part of the problem. Do what you can with what you have today and know even your small acts can have a great impact.
This bit of information that we do not have to agree on everything to be kind to each other hopefully is something you already know…at least intellectually. In this day and age of social media, individuals can broadcast their opinions to the world with a click of a button. It is my belief they should. I think one of the beautiful things about technology and social media is the ability to be exposed to others who are different than we are. Whether that is someone in a different city, state or a different country. I am blessed that this blog is followed in over 100 countries. I regularly converse with wonderful souls from Italy, Lebanon, Syria, Australia and a host of other countries. Still working on Greenland, but we will save that story for another post. What warms my heart is that on any given day people in countries that can’t seem to get along socially or politically both read what I have written. Just today I was in touch with some amazing individuals in both Pakistan as well as India. Yesterday despite what I read in the headlines, people in both Turkey and Syria read what was posted here. I equate this to my ability to speak to topics that affect all of us. No matter where we live, everyone would love to reduce their stress, increase their joy and become the best version of themselves. In general, we all have a burning desire to live a life full of happiness, abundance and love. All of us at some point enjoy motivation, inspiration and encouragement. Everyone enjoys receiving a smile. Well maybe not one of my coworkers, but she is the one who probably needs it the most. As you can see deep down we are a lot alike. We all have hopes, dreams and passions. True, they may not be the same, but we all have them. What about those pesky differences? There are major differences after all. Religion, sex, politics. All of the subjects we were told not to discuss because they precipitate many disagreements. I say we should discuss our deep beliefs and passions. It is learning the proper way to discuss them. I also think disagreeing is ok. We just need to learn how to disagree. Even at the highest level we have regressed to personal attacks and name calling. It can be challenging to admit someone has a right to a contrary opinion than us. It can be even more difficult to be able to respect that opinion. Do you know what happens when you can say things like, “This is the way I think, but I understand and respect you have a different belief on this matter. How can we work together to come to a common accord?” One, you sound like a really badass. Seriously. You are a warrior. You have conquered the fiercest opponent – your own emotions and your own mind. There is not greater challenge than that. Here is another bonus to being diplomatic and understanding – you never come out looking like a jerk. By displaying a sense of compassion and understanding you have taken the high road. You also give them an opportunity to not only be a part of the solution, but walk away with dignity and respect for their belief. Why people feel there can only be one correct belief, opinion or answer is beyond me. Instead of focusing on trying to change others, we should work on changing ourselves into someone who operates with more compassion and understanding. Some of you may be saying, “How can I agree with someone who has a different faith than I do?” Again, it is important to note that you don’t have to agree with someone to respect their differences. This picture is bordered in green and yellow. Those two colors happen to be the colors of the Green Bay Packers, the local professional football team. Every Sunday when they play you can read posts and comments on social media of a very intense and passionate nature. Again, nothing wrong with that. What is sad is often these degenerate into the same name calling nonsense of the other subjects. Here are a few quick news flashes… You can’t change others, only yourself. People are allowed to be different, just as you are. Two people can have different opinions and beliefs and neither or both of them can be right. You can both disagree and respect someone’s difference. There are civil ways to discuss differences. Being exposed to and not automatically rejecting different people and their thoughts and beliefs can lead to some of your greatest personal growth. So let us all be kind to each other and work to live with more compassion.
This picture was taken at ‘Harvest Fair’, a local celebration of all things fall. I am one who is a great fan of fairs so Margie and I generally attend this festivity every year. There is an exquisite farmers market where you can purchase squash, vegetables and many other delicious and local items. There are bands, food stands, vendors, friends and everything that makes a fair…well…a fair.
This year there was something new, a smores truck. Everyone was issued a plate with the ingredients for smores. You then took your ingredients and ‘roasted’ them over a small coil. This was a little less gratifying than an open fire, but accomplished the same task.
Everyone roasted their marshmallow to their liking. Some just enjoyed having it warm. I prefer a nice golden brown color with a slight caramel flavor bestowed upon it. Margie, on the other hand, believes without a little bit of charring the marshmallow is not done.
I watched the collection of people all gather together on what was an unseasonably cold September evening to do something simple like making smores. That was great to begin with but there was more. As you can see on my plate there was a sticker instructing me to give someone there a compliment. Each plate had its own positive suggestion. I thought that was a very nice touch.
My compliments to the fine folks at Hershey’s for sponsoring this. Not only did they add a special activity to an already special event, but for going the extra mile and encouraging people to do random kind things. I wish I had taken the time to look at more of the plates. A special shout out to the great people at the Wisconsin State Fair for deciding to make this a part of Harvest Fair.
I am looking to do something similar to this and am asking you, dear reader, to help me. How can we encourage people to do positive things like the stickers on the plates did? I feel attaching them to something positive like Hershey did with the smores was a brilliant idea. I am asking all of us to put our heads together and come up with a way to do something similar and bring positivity to our neighborhoods.
This blog is followed in over 100 countries and I can just imagine how amazing it would be if in every city, in every country where this blog is read we all start random acts of kindness and positivity. The ripple effect would be world-changing! I would LOVE to hear your ideas in the comments below! I will also include an instructional photo of my lovely lady’s marshmallow so you can see how it should be done according to Margie.
We have all heard the saying If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?The premise being if there is no receiver, does the action still matter? The quick answer is “yes”. According to the laws of physics, the sound still happens. Dynamite does not silently explode because the workers have retreated to a safe distance. That should seem quite obvious. This had me thinking of the flip-side of this equation. What about the creative side of things? What if you were to plant a tree and nobody was around to see you do it? Would it still matter? The quick answer again would be “yes”. The tree would still grow. People would enjoy its shade and any fruits if it was that sort of tree. The birds would still be able to use its branches to rest or perhaps even build their nests. The tree would still filter the air to make the world better for everyone. What does all of this have to do with living a more amazing life? Plenty. I am not just speaking to the arborists that read this blog. This question came up during an absolutely wonderful heart-felt conversation between the love of my life, Margie, and me. The question was – If you do an act of kindness and nobody knows about it or benefits from it in the moment, is it still worth doing? The quick answer, much like our tree analogies, is “yes”. This can be as simple as picking up a piece of litter as you are walking. In the long run it may not change the world, and may seem insignificant, but it is not. Many of you may be thinking “Why should I go out of my way to pick up someone else’s garbage?” Really, you shouldn’t have to. It is their responsibility and their fault it is on the ground. So why do these things? The reasons are plenty, and I would really enjoy hearing some of the ones you think I may have missed in the comments below. On a personal level, doing kind and right things when nobody is watching is what developing a strong character is all about. If you do what is right when there is no one watching, you will do the right thing when people are watching. This holds true for many aspects of life. Healthy eating comes to mind. If you tell everyone you are eating healthy, but then go home and eat half a dozen doughnuts your waist will resemble…well…a doughnut. The same is true for gossip. If you talk well of others in public, but still gossip with your coworkers about this person or that, your spirit will not be at peace. Another reason is simple, yet very important – you never know if somebody is watching. At my day job at the post office we have a poster reminding the carriers to handle each package with the care and respect it deserves. There is a not so subtle reminder that everyone has cell phones and even if you don’t think anyone is watching, before long the whole world may be watching. I have heard people say things such as “Well just because somebody does something once, it may not be who they really are.” or the very insightful phrase, “They wouldn’t have done that if they thought someone was watching/listening.” The point is this – we are what we do whether someone is watching or listening or not. We are what we repeatedly say and do. Of course we all make mistakes and that should be understood, but it is important to cultivate our character by acting consistently whether someone is watching or not. Also, doing something good when we know, or at least think, that no one is watching gives us a good feeling inside. If you are new to this blog it we often stress the importance of keeping our state positive. Being in a positive state helps us reduce stress, increase joy and just feel better about ourselves. When that happens the ripple effect is our treatment of others and the attitude we bring to our jobs, family, friends and the world at large. Lastly, like in the tree example, this has an unknown ripple effect. Later, by picking up that littler, we may bring a person joy when they see a clean street instead of one filled with garbage. We may have helped prevent an animal or child from picking that garbage up and putting it in their mouth. We may have had a great impact and never know it. Is doing something good or right worth doing if nobody ever knows or we can’t see the positive impact? The answer, as you may have deciphered, is a resounding “YES”.