I admit it. I am a self-proclaimed optimist.
A die-hard optimist, to be exact.
Most people who know me would describe me that way as well. So I’ve been thinking and thinking about all these school shootings and what can be done to stop them. The problem is so wide and complex. On a national, political, and federal level, there is deep change that needs to happen, and that thought is almost too overwhelming to consider. There is change that needs to occur in the mental health arena. There is change that needs to occur in the educational arena. There is change that needs to occur in the bullying arena. There is so much change that is needed. That kind of big change takes time and people coming together to generate ideas and inspiration and then action. Lots of it.
There is that wonderful invention to place over the door closer to keep kids safe in their classrooms. This is an amazing illustration of the power of our human minds when put to good use. But as wonderful as that invention is, that only helps with the symptom (shootings) and not the root cause which is where the lasting change needs to take place. But again, overwhelming, right?
So let’s think smaller. Let us look in the mirror. What can each of us, as invididuals, do starting right this minute, to begin to take some small step in the right direction? To create a ripple effect that has the power to grow bigger and bigger? Consider the following things that each of us can do. Starting right now:
1. Be more conscious of the way we are treating others. I believe that we all operate and respond to each other on an energetic level, whether we are aware of it or not. How many times are we rushed, stressed and harried trying to get from one thing to another? In the midst of our rushing and stress, we sometimes take our frustrations out on our loved ones, or maybe the gas station attendant, or the waitress who forgot that we did not want tomatoes on our sandwich. How many times have you responded to someone in a less than kind way, or witnessed someone responding to someone else in that way? Imagine for a minute if each one of us, starting right now, became aware of the way we are treating other people and made an intentional effort to increase the kindness that we show to others. What would the world look like if we each made that small change? Just like the large scale change that needs to happen, imagine if that small change was repeated every day, over and over across the 317 million people who live in the United States. How many times have we heard that the shooter was shunned by his classmates and did not have any friends? I bet there were not that many people who showed kindness to these people who committed these atrocities. And what does a person do who feels isolated, alone and ignored by the rest of us? If that person who might be teetering on the edge is treated with decency and respect as a regular matter of business, how many people might be saved? Of course being kind is not the only thing that is needed, but its a start. We do have the power to change this. With small choices as well as big changes.
2. How can we intentionally treat others with more kindness? We have to slow down. Somehow, some way, we have to relieve the stress we have placed around ourselves. I come into contact with so many people who are over-scheduled, overcommitted and drained of time as well as energy, leaving very little space left in their lives for joy and kindness. Life does not have to be lived that way. You do not have to live that way. In fact, life can be much more rewarding and enjoyable when we do not live that way. Simpler lifestyles with less “stuff” in our closets and fewer events on our calendars give us the mental space to begin to feel less stress and spread that feeling to those around us. But it takes intentionality. Each and every day.
3. Be kind to ourselves. It is difficult to be kind to others if we are beating ourselves up for our own shortcomings. So today, give yourself a break. If you messed up, agree to try to do better next time. If you made a mistake, learn from it and move on.
4. Count your blessings. It may sound corny, but when we take the time to look around and feel grateful – for a sunrise, a hug, a smile, the promotion that we just got, the rain to water our lawns, the strong legs to walk into the store from the last parking space on the lot, the chance to get a good night’s sleep – we are spreading that gratitude and that positive energy out into the universe. And maybe, just maybe that positive energy can begin to take hold and overcome the stress, tension, fear and anxiety that is gripping so many of us these days.
We do have the power to effect change. If only a handful of us do these things, we may not see big results. But if all 317 million of us do these things, the world will become a significantly happier place to live. And I am optimistic that it can happen.