Do your little part today…

September 28, 2020

Back from a long weekend away, I am inspired today (as is often the case) by a quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog – Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”  (Van Gogh)

I’ve posted here a few times about taking small steps (baby steps) in a new direction in your life (see the latest post at – https://normsmilfordblog.com/2020/09/09/step-off-in-a-new-direction/)

The quote that Jack used today made me wonder what the impact would be if enough of us started doing the small things that we lament are missing in society today – being more civil to each other, extending acts of kindness to each other, paying it forward. Could we achieve the more peaceful and caring society that most of us want, if we each individually took some small steps in that direction? Would our small acts of kindness or civility become additive and create even more of the same?

I have a sign on my front lawn that contains a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr – “I decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I have had many people stop and ask me where I go the sign. It was created by the West Bloomfield, Michigan Optimists’ Club as part of a project to share King’s words. The people that stop all ask where they can get one, which shows me that here is lots of pent-up goodness in the world. Maybe sharing that sign in my little part in making things better for us all. Hopefully it at least starts them thinking more about love and less about hate.

You don’t need to put a sign on your lawn to do something to help the world be a better place to live and you don’t have to do something big, either. What you can do is to resolve to be a more caring and giving person today and to show that attitude through small acts of civility and kindness to others as the day goes on. The little ripples that you create with your actions will combine with ripples from others to become larger waves of change in our society. What you may notice first is the lack of the hatefulness that is on display so often today and that would be a great change.

Start by resolving, as King did, that hate is too hard a burden to carry around all day. Start out your morning with a prayer that God will put love in your heart and a determination to share that love with those that you encounter. Instead of a grunt and a frown, greet those you meet with a smile and an open hand. Say, “Hello. How’s your day going or how are you?” If they ask you how you are, answer, “Fantastic!” They will wonder the rest of the day what it is that made your day so fantastic. Maybe they will even thonk of some things that will make their day fantastic, too.

The point is that you will be doing your little part to make things better. If you go all day and only change one person’s outlook on life in a positive way, you will have already doubled the number of happy and more civil people in the world. Imagine that happening every day for a long time and soon you can imagine that enough people have changed to make the world a better place. We talk about “herd immunity” these days, but this is “herd happiness”. Your small acts of empathy and kindness can be a part of this bigger change in our society.

Do your little part today.


It all starts with me…

December 14, 2016

“The Buck Stops Here” (President Harry S. Truman) Truman had a sign that had that little saying on his desk in the White House and he used that phrase in speeches. There is anbuck-stops-here interesting story about the sign on Truman’s office and the origin of that phrase at the Truman Library web site. Truman, and many who have followed since, used that phrase to indicate that rather than “pass the buck” the buck would stop with them and they would make a decision. It is useful for making personal decisions in many facets of life, such as dealing with bullying or dealing with prejudice or continuing to look the other way and allow any number of injustices to continue. It is all too easy to pass the buck, rather than have the buck stop here- with you.

I wrote a post here yesterday about the lack of respect (and from that a lack of civility) in our modern political system and our society in general. A reader commented on that post, “Norm, you are so very right. Where has it gone and when can we get it back?” That sparked the Respect2thought that it really isn’t just about the buck stopping here, with me (or you); but, also the fact that the different behavior that is needed to combat that lack of respect and civility must start with me, too. It starts with me showing respect for the opinions of others, even if I don’t agree with their option or point of view on things. There are ways to respectfully disagree without resorting to screaming or name calling. Rather than waste my time and yours trying to denigrate you and your position, I need to focus upon doing a better job trying to understand your position and searching for some common ground upon which we might be able to find compromise.

So the answer to that question from my reader about how to recover the lost respect and civility in life is that we get it back when we start giving it back. We resist the reflex to jab back at the person taunting us or belittling our position or beliefs. We turn the otherdisagreement2 cheek. (Where have we heard that before?) Maybe, instead of just blurting back, “You’re wrong”, we could say instead, “I see that we have different opinions on this; is there anything about it that we can agree upon?” There may not initially be any apparent common ground; but, just changing the situation from a confrontation into a conversation may defuse what otherwise might escalate into something that you both regret later. We can start by respecting that we have differences and being civil about it. See how that works..

I also wrote recently about dealing with people who are looking at life through completely different lens that we can even imagine. (See – Trying to understand others without a frame of reference…) While the example used in that post and the follow-on post about Depression are examples of frames of personal reference (lens if you will) that are a little further out of the norm, they are examples of how things can be seen and opinions formed based upon different perspectives on life. The differences in the frames of reference discussed in those posts may have been extreme; however, something similar seems to looking-through-glasses-lenshave happened in our everyday lives, especially in the aspects that deal with politics.

The lens that we “see” things through in order to formulate those political opinions are often not internal, but those that are held up for us to look through by the politicians of our times. Sometimes they are charismatic charmers who can convince us to walk through fire with them in order to do the “right thing”. Sometimes they tap into our darker side and encourage us to let out the anger and frustration that we may have bottled up. We have the choice of forming ourWWJD own opinions by looking through the lenses that are held up by others or by choosing our own lens and view of things. If we really need an external lens to look through, we might do better by looking through the lens of the Bible and the “truths” that we will find there, rather than the “truths” that we see in a political ad or a tweet.

So, where does it start? How do we get back from the lack of civility and respect that we find ourselves in today? The simple truth is that it starts with me. I postulate that if I, and every other “I” out there, decided to be more respectful of differences and more civil in my interactions with others; eventually there start-with-mewould be enough “I’s” being respectful; and civil to others that it would turn us into “we” and then everything would be better. “We” would be living in a more respectful and civil world. I like that; and it starts with me.

How about you? Would you like to make your “I” a part of “We”? It starts with you, too.