About 5 months ago, I wrote about an amazing woman named Anna Dravland and her desire to change the world despite some serious medical setbacks she encountered along the way. Out of that desire, Spread Goodness Day was born. The third annual Spread Goodness Day just happens to be today, March 13, 2020.
On this day (and every other day, really), you are encouraged to do one act of goodness. It can be big or small, public or private. Just put some positivity into the world in what ever way feels natural to you.
Hold open a door. Pay for someone’s coffee. Let a car in ahead of yours during rush hour. Volunteer. Check in on an elderly neighbor. Remind someone that they’re awesome.
What do I plan to do on this day? Well, for starters, I wrote this blog to spread the word. As of this writing (I write most posts about 10 days in advance) I have no specific plans. I firmly believe, though, that an opportunity will present itself. I think that most genuine acts of kindness happen organically. Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to doing it.
If you feel like spreading the love even further, once you’ve done your kindness, head on over to spreadgoodnessday.com and tell everyone what you did. You can remain anonymous if you wish. But you might inspire someone else, and therefore double your impact!
However you choose to spend Spread Goodness Day, I’m sending you love, dear reader!
Dear reader, take heart. All is not lost. There is still kindness and decency in this world. Despite all our divisiveness and infighting and moral decay, the milk of human kindness still flows. The story below is a true one. The good deed was done by a friend of my husband’s, who gave me permission to share it with you, as long as he remained anonymous. The picture is not of the actual dog in question.
It’s important to share the good news, to remind us that now is not the time to abandon all hope. Love still wins. It’s still here.
For all of you out there who spread goodness in ways big and small, thank you.
I bought a dog today. I was taking the feral kitten we caught to the shelter today and there was an old man there trying to pick up his dog. He explained that he had been in the hospital and that his dog was there. He wanted to take it home. They explained to him that it had been there for a while and it was up for adoption. He said he just wanted to take him home. She said he would have to pay the adoption fee and expenses. She told him the cost and he said he couldn’t afford it. I bought a dog today.
Sometimes I see this big old world of ours as a gigantic pond. We all sit along its banks, so far apart that we struggle to make an impact on each other’s lives. But if we gaze at that glassy water long enough, if we think about how it stretches out before us to distant shores, and if we are just the tiniest bit creative, then we start to figure out what we have to do.
We simply have to drop a tiny pebble into that pond. Make an effort. A small gesture. It doesn’t take much to cause a ripple that will spread out to those near you, and cause them to drop in a pebble too, and so on.
And we each have different pebbles. We can be kind to a stranger. We can donate to a charity. We can write a blog or start a little free library or pick up garbage off the side of the road. We can recycle and compost and carry our own reusable grocery bags to the market. We can teach and we can learn. We can let a car in ahead of us during rush hour. We can listen to a troubled teen.
There are so many little things you can do in the course of a day. You may already be in this habit, to the point where you don’t even realize the ripples that you put out or the impact that you make. Or you may be in despair, thinking that nothing you do really matters or is noticed. But keep it up, because it does matter and it is noticed, and it’s appreciated more than you will ever know.
One of the most unexpected perks about getting married is that I’ve acquired a whole lot of new amazing family members. One of my favorites, Jenna, recently posted something on her Facebook page that moved me so much that I had to share it with all of you.
“Took the kiddos to a busy park today and watched a mom lose her temper at her kiddo…in a loud yelling, arm yanking kind of way. Another mom walked up to her, put her hand in hers and said, “Hey, we’ve all been here.” Then the super young mama went from red-faced anger to tears. They hugged, and then another mom joined, and another, then a dad joined them, and another, then there were like 10 parents, in a group hug around her. I cried from the sidelines trying to keep a close eye on my little ones, but It was astonishing to see the diversity of parents show their compassion, rather than judgement. We need to rally around our vulnerable parents. Lift them up, and give them strength. This kid raisin’ business is hard. #bekind#ilovemycommunity#tucsonkindness”
I’m not one to fill my blog with Facebookishness, but this really hit me in the heart place. In a time when we’re all feeling so polarized and divided and downright depressed, this kind of behavior gives me hope. It is still possible to love thy neighbor. We can support each other. Si se puede. We can be a force for good.
Just sit with that for a while. Let it sink in. Let it be your thought for the day. Namaste.
Recently, I was talking to someone I hadn’t talked to in ages. She is the cousin of a dear friend. She lives here in the Seattle area. When I was moving 3100 miles, I was really stressed out about my housing situation, because I was bringing my two dogs and all my stuff with me, so if I didn’t have a house lined up before I got here, I’d have been in a real fix. I couldn’t afford to fly out in advance and set this all up, so I had no idea what I was going to do.
I did find a house on line, and my friend called his cousin, and, without knowing me at all, she took the time out of her busy schedule to go and check out the house for me and take pictures, so I was comfortable enough to put down a deposit sight unseen. I couldn’t have done it without her. The whole relocation thing would have crumbled like a house of cards.
That means that all that came afterwards, my great job, my financial security for the first time in my life, my husband, my happiness… none of that would have happened were it not for her kindness to a stranger. Needless to say, I thanked her profusely. But I’m sure she doesn’t get what a significant thing that was for me.
If you look at the big picture, our entire existence can be attributed in some way to the kindness of others. I’ve had so many people throughout my life who have given me a leg up. Scholarships. Crowdfunding. Letters of recommendation. Most of the clothing I’ve worn throughout my life has been from thrift stores, made affordable only through donations by others. Most of the furniture I’ve owned has come from the side of the road. People have given me advice. Others have stood between me and violence. Untold numbers have helped me find my way when I was lost.
We all walk upon a web of good deeds that is so densely woven that it has become a tapestry. I feel certain that much of the goodness is behind the scenes. We are able to stand tall for reasons unknown and often unappreciated. This decency forms the very fabric of society.
Even in these times of great division and conflict, I genuinely believe that most of us are fundamentally good. It’s important to remember that. It’s important to appreciate it, and never forget its value.
So, thanks again Sarah, and thanks to all the others who have come before you in my life, and all the ones who will surely come after you.
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As strange as it may seem, it took me years to figure out that I should only surround myself with kind, loving, and decent people. No one ever told me that. I think deep down, had the concept even occurred to the younger me, I wouldn’t have really believed I deserved it.
So I wasted a lot of time desperately trying to gain approval from people who were way too busy pumping toxic waste into my life to ever grant said approval. What a shame.
But slowly, ever so slowly, the number of amazing humans in my world started to outnumber the bad apples. That made that rotten fruit seem increasingly unpalatable to me. I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to expect quality in all my relationships. What a notion.
It’s so wonderful to know so many outstanding people now. It’s a gift. It’s priceless. Sometimes it brings tears of joy to my eyes.
But recently I’ve come to see what it would have been like if I had kept my emotional garden free of weeds and decay all along. My boyfriend seems to have done an excellent job of doing so, and the results have been profoundly positive. There is so much good in his world. It’s one of the many things I admire about him. He is a lodestone for kindness.
Recently we announced our engagement, and the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. In the best possible way. This is all new to me. I keep telling him I feel like I’m being love bombed. He reassures me that I’m not joining a cult. Receiving this kind of encouragement is just as it should be.
Well, alrighty then! I’ll take it. Please and thank you!
In case no one ever told you, dear reader: Look for the good in the world. Accept nothing less. You’ll be amazed at how much it multiplies. Proof positive that love conquers all.
Recently, on my online newsfeed, I saw an article that asked the readers if it is ethical to pass your wealth on to your children. I confess, I didn’t read it. Why would I? It’s not a problem that I’ll ever have. My parents didn’t have much money to pass on to me, and I don’t have any children. Problem solved.
But I did think about the issue from a philosophical standpoint during my next long commute. Naturally, Donald Trump sprang to mind. I’m convinced that the only reason he has money today is because daddy gave him obscene amounts of money to begin with. Donald Trump is barely literate and has no people skills whatsoever, and how many times has he declared bankruptcy? There’s no way he’d have been a self-made millionaire. The world would be a much safer and healthier place if his father hadn’t given him that leg up.
But on the other hand, it’s the average parent’s instinct to try to make his or her children’s lives better than the preceding generation’s. Who are we to deny them that? It’s their wealth. (Well… it is and it isn’t. I’ll save that particular rant for another day.) They can do with it whatever they choose.
Having said that, though, I feel the need to point out that with wealth comes power. If you’re giving your child power that that child hasn’t earned, then you bear a responsibility to make sure your kid is worthy of that power. (Trump’s father never did that, and now we are all paying the price. Lucky us.)
It’s every parent’s duty to instill a strong moral compass in children. They need to grasp laws and ethics and morals. They should understand the need for, and frequently practice, philanthropy. They must possess a certain level of compassion and kindness. Above all, they should have respect for others. With such an unequal balance of power being presented to them on a silver platter, they must be taught to avoid the impulse to grab things (or people) that don’t belong to them.
If little rich kids don’t have these qualities (and unfortunately many do not), then giving them an enormous nest egg on which to lounge is a disservice to the human race. Sheltering them from the real world, and coddling them from life, only produces cruel, dangerous, psychopathic individuals. The last thing these warped individuals need is for you to throw power, in the form of big sweaty wads of cash, into the mix. It creates a toxic stew.
You know shit is getting real when your doctor actually prescribes that you don’t watch the news for a week. Between North Korea and Puerto Rico, my blood pressure is higher than it ought to be. So let the news blackout begin.
For those of you in the helping professions in particular, vicarious trauma is a problem that should be taken very seriously. Counselors, health professionals, firemen, police officers, social workers, soldiers, even journalists get exposed to other people’s trauma on a daily basis, and unless they have hearts of stone, these experiences, albeit secondhand, impact them as well. More and more, as all of us have greater access to disasters on a global scale, I’m beginning to believe that every single one of us is exposed to vicarious trauma.
Do you ever feel like you just can’t listen to one more news item without losing your mind? Are you convinced that one more presidential tweet just might send you over the edge? Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, forest fires… the overwhelming number of Youtube videos showing animal abuse and neglect… it is just too much to take in.
Think of trauma like a pebble thrown into a pond. The ripples that flow outward from that pebble effect all of us. It feels like we can never do enough. It’s exhausting. It makes you feel guilty, or afraid, or angry, or cynical. Sometimes it makes you feel numb, or helpless, or hopeless.
All of these are natural responses to vicarious trauma, but they’re not particularly helpful. It’s important that you learn to practice compassion for yourself as well as for other people. Give yourself a break. Be kind to you. Be sure to give yourself opportunities to engage in things outside your work, or outside the news. Set the burden down every now and then. Center yourself with family and friends. Get local. Allow yourself to have limits.
Most of all, talk to people. You are not alone. We are all getting a bit burned out. We need each other to weather the storms.
When I was a little girl, some well-meaning adult, who clearly didn’t know me at all, bought me a doll. I hope she didn’t spend too much money on it, because as soon as she left the house it got stuffed in the back of my closet, never to be seen again.
I didn’t play with dolls. I played with Tonka Trucks. (They went better with my overalls.) I built things with Legos. I did have a Barbie, but mostly because I liked the things that came with her—the convertible, the house. But I would tolerate no other doll in my world. I particularly hated all things that could be described as “frilly”. That word still makes me shudder to this day. No ribbons or lace for this girl!
So imagine my horror when, at the beginning of this holiday season, I started seeing the commercials for Wellie Wishers, a set of dolls put out by a company called American Girl. According to the website, these 5 dolls are “a sweet and silly group of girls who each have the same big, bright wish: to be a good friend.”
To their credit, this is a racially diverse group of dolls. But despite that, they’re named Camille, Emerson, Willa, Kendall and Ashlyn. How much more white and middle class can you possibly get? And one of them, Willa, wears bunny ears. I swear to God.
They aren’t cheap, either. Starting at 60 bucks, this price tag is sure to give the average parent pause. But of course you’re encouraged to collect all five! And they also offer a boatload of accessories.
And here’s where it gets really scary. There’s also a line of clothing for little girls so they can dress just like their dolls. And these dresses, in my opinion, are truly, truly, TRULY horrible.
I don’t have kids. If I had a daughter, I probably would be cursed with a girly girl. Such is my karma. She’d probably want to wear a dress like the one in the picture below. (This one isn’t put out by American Girl. Theirs are even worse.) Seeing my kid wanting to be dressed up like a Christmas turkey would make me want to curl up and die on the inside.
I wouldn’t want my child’s biggest goals to be being silly and a good friend. I’d want her to value her own intelligence and leadership qualities and independence. I’d want her to take pride in her own agency, and not be taught to put everyone else first. (And by the way, why is it not important to teach boys to be good friends? Hmmm?)
One of the current American Girl commercials assures us that any girl who has one of these dolls as “her new best friend” will “learn friendship and kindness and confidence, too,” as well as “how to be an American girl.” It does not say how these inanimate objects will achieve this goal, though. I guess to find that out you have to watch their “all-new animated series!” Or maybe instructions come with the Giggles & Grins Play Set. But that, of course, costs extra.
It makes me kind of queasy to think that people are out there spending 60 bucks to reinforce this appalling stereotype. What will it truly wind up costing them? Heaven help us as a society.
Here’s an idea. Buy your daughter a book, instead. Then maybe she’ll grow up to write one of her own, like I did. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu
There is an interesting human spectrum that tells you a great deal about people. I call it the generosity spectrum. But it also has a great deal to do with trust, confidence, kindness, and a sense of karma.
At one extreme, you have people who are so wide open that they put themselves at risk. These are the people who will not only pick up every hitchhiker they see, but will invite them to come crash on their couch for a couple of months. Need a shirt? Here’s the one off my back. Yeah, I know it’s snowing, but you said you needed a shirt.
At the other extreme, you get the bitter old men who will not let the neighborhood kids retrieve their balls from their yards. They see everyone as a threat, and guard their property jealously. They are definitely not people who will support you in times of crisis. In fact, they will resent that you even ask.
I don’t think either extreme is particularly healthy, to be honest, but I must admit that I try to surround myself with people toward the more generous end of the spectrum. The reason I do that is that I’ve noticed that those people who look at the world from a place of abundance tend to have more positive things happening in their lives. As unscientific as it is, abundance tends to breed abundance.
Sadly, I’ve had quite a few encounters with the opposite extreme of late.
I’m working on an anthology that will include several of my blog entries on the subject of, ironically, gratitude. Being my first book, this is an extremely low budget operation. I saw some artwork that I would have loved to have used on the front cover, and I approached the artist. I told him that I thought his work was amazing, told him what I had in mind, and asked if he’d allow me to use a print of his painting, give him due credit and increased exposure, and give him a percentage of the profits should any arise. He responded that he was sick and tired of people trying to steal his work. Message received.
I also saw an amazing film at the Seattle International Film Festival and had the opportunity to talk to the director afterwards. I then wrote a very positive review for this blog, encouraging everyone to go see it, and sent the director the link, thinking he’d be flattered. Instead he told me to take the review down, saying he didn’t give me permission to use his words, and that it had been a private conversation. (Mind you, this took place in a crowded room, with a total stranger, at a film festival where he was present to promote his work.) Um… yeah. That was the first time I’d ever had to take down a blog entry.
But perhaps the most painful encounters I’ve had with people more toward the “lack” end of the generosity spectrum have come from friends and family. I wasn’t expecting this at all. It has caused me to reevaluate the way I view some of them.
Recently tragedy struck my family. I’m extremely close to my niece and nephew, especially now that my sister has passed away. So when my niece needed help, I naturally stepped up.
Her husband broke his neck. He was the sole breadwinner of the family, and they have three children, ages 1, 3, and 6. Needless to say, this is bad. No family should have to choose between feeding their children and paying the rent, especially when they’re already dealing with the stress of extreme pain and slow recovery.
This catastrophe has consumed me for well over a week. I have averaged about 3 hours of sleep a day, and my whole world revolves around this situation. So I created a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise money to take some of the pressure off them. Then I asked friends and family to share the campaign on social media.
Mind you, I didn’t ask anyone to contribute money. Not everyone has the money to contribute. I totally get that. I live it. I simply asked them to spread the word. By doing so, they would be showing support at a time when I am feeling particularly helpless, and that is worth more to me than gold. They would also be giving their friends and family the chance to pay it forward if they have been through similar past tragedies and are in a position to do so, and that is a great opportunity for healing.
A lot of people stepped up and shared. This means so much to me that it brings tears to my eyes. But others showed that they are coming from a place of lack rather than abundance by reacting in a variety of negative ways.
I’m told I’m being pushy, or inappropriate, or embarrassing. I’m told that I have a lot of nerve, when there are so many people in the world who are worse off, and when there is so much drama happening all over the place. I’m being ignored by people who never ignore me. I’m being told that they get requests like this all the time, and if they shared mine, they’d have to share everyone’s, and we can’t have that, can we?
Oh, where to begin. Point by point, I suppose. First of all, I don’t think there’s any shame in asking for help when it’s desperately needed. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. Yes, there are billions of people who are worse off. How do you determine the cut off? Who is “allowed” to be scared, worried, stressed out, and in need of support, and who is not? I know that tragedies abound, but this is a situation where I can actually make a difference, and when an opportunity like that presents itself, I’m going to jump on it.
I would never, EVER ignore a plea for help. That’s just rude. And granted, my social network is probably smaller than a lot of peoples, so I don’t get requests of this type as often as they probably do, but I promise you, when someone comes to me, at the end of their rope, their lives changed for the worst, and asks me to simply share a Facebook post, I’m going to share it every single time. Every. Single. Time. Because the people on my Facebook feed are grown ass adults who can decide whether or not to contribute or pass on a post, so they’ll “get over” my intrusion. Or they won’t. Oh well.
And, too, coming from the more generous end of the spectrum, I truly believe that even if you can’t contribute financially to someone you love, you can, and should, always be able to contribute emotionally. It’s not easy to ask for help. But it’s made so much worse when you are rejected after you ask. It’s times like this that show what you’re truly made of. I’d hate to be made of selfish things. It don’t think it’s a good look.