Category: Kindness

Be Kind.

At my local post office here in Utah over the weekend, I spotted a new sign on the bulletin board.

I love its message, and it’s a timely reminder for residents because our state has “reopened” from the covid shutdowns.

Here’s the sign:

be kind UT sign

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Pillars of a Season of Moral Repair

Below is a recent email and video from 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson that I want to share here:

Dear Rebecca,

With the unveiling of the Whole Health Plan yesterday, we have established the pillars of a season of moral repair. Through it, we will harness the power of American decency in service to the healing of our country.

The pillars of a politics of conscience alter the prevailing political, social and economic patterns that dominate America, returning us to our deepest democratic roots and humanitarian principles. 

The pillars are: 

An agenda for economic justice…
We will repair the damage done by trickle-down economics.
READ PLAN

A Department of Children and Youth…
We will repair the damage done to millions of traumatized children.
READ PLAN

Mass mobilization to reverse climate change…
We will repair the damage done to the earth.
READ PLAN

A Department of Peace…
We will repair the damage done to America’s moral authority around the world.
READ PLAN

Reparations…
We will repair the damage done by historical wrongs.
READ REPARATIONS PLAN | READ NATIVE AMERICAN JUSTICE PLAN

The Whole Health Plan…
We will repair the damage done by an obsolete healthcare system that treats symptoms but not cause.
READ PLAN

From free college tuition to a removal of the college loan debt to universal healthcare to the expansion of Social Security to the adoption of a Universal Basic Income, we will transition from an economic to a humanitarian bottom line. We will make this question the core principle of all public policy: What is it that would help people thrive? Thus we will pave the way to greater peace and prosperity for all.

Turning love into a political force is not a pipe dream; it is simply a choice. These are extraordinary times and we have it within us to respond to them in extraordinary ways.

As your president, I will make sure we do. On January 20, 2021, may the healing begin…

With love,
Marianne

 

Introducing: The Encouraging Times

Hello from Flagstaff, mile 575 of 800 on the Arizona Trail, which I’ve been hiking since March 14!

In all of this walking, I’ve had several ideas of projects/creations to pursue in the coming months. One of these ideas is The Encouraging Times, a zine of uplifting stories, which I’ve decided to act on during my brief stay in town–before there’s time for any doubts to fester.

I’m on a library computer and the time is dwindling down, so this will be a brief post–but I encourage you to check out the above link to learn about this project. And then keep your eyes peeled for encouraging actions happening in your community, and send in your own submission!

I hope this post finds you well. Thanks so much for reading, and I’m excited to get back on here late May.

The Unexpected Email from My Spanish TA on Easter

I never would have thought an email from a college Teaching Assistant (TA) would stick with me for nearly a decade. But one has, and remains memorable to this day.

Nine Easters ago, in 2008, I was in the second semester of my freshman year at UW-Madison. College was a huge breath of fresh air after some difficult teen years coming out as an atheist to my very Catholic family.

I was grateful to join the campus’s student organization AHA (Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics) and to finally have Sunday mornings free. Little by little I became more okay with talking about my lack of belief with certain others.

One of the places I felt safe to share my beliefs was in my Spanish 203 class, taught by TA Elizabeth Walz. For one composition assignment, I chose to write about discrimination against atheists in the United States and how it affected me personally.

In the simple sentences I could form at that point, I wrote in Spanish that it had been about three years since I began self-identifying as an atheist, and that it had been hard to come out to my family. “I don’t tell many people I’m an atheist because I don’t want them to judge me before they know me,” I wrote, “but it doesn’t feel good to keep it a secret.”

While we were on spring break, Elizabeth forwarded an optional survey to our class, which would help a grad student conduct research about motivations for learning languages. I submitted my answers—why not?

She wrote back and thanked me for having participated in the survey.

The email could have easily ended right there, confirming she’d received my survey, but she went on. In a second paragraph, Elizabeth let me know that she was there if I ever wanted to talk about anything. She hoped that celebrating Easter with my family hadn’t been too uncomfortable, but based on my composition, it probably hadn’t been the easiest of weekends for me.

She closed with a friendly reminder:

Acuérdate de que tienes apoyo moral también en la universidad, ¿vale?

(Remember that you have moral support in the university as well, okay?)

I was so touched.

I stared at the screen and then read the email again.

Here I was, just a tiny freshman in a campus of 40,000 students, and yet here was my TA—who had her own grad classes, lesson planning, grading, and an incredibly intense M.A.-Ph.D. Qualifying Examination to worry about, not to mention her personal life—stopping to think about me on this weekend, asking was I okay?

I remember feeling a little guilty, actually, because Easter with my family hadn’t been notably difficult, and I thought there was likely someone more deserving of such concern.

But the message which reached me clearly is that I was not alone. I had support here at the university, people who cared about my well-being and feelings, starting with my Spanish TA. It was also the first time Spanish words had a very real impact on me, which made the email even more striking.

This compassionate act cannot be measured or quantified, but rather appreciated and paid forward.
I still have this email, and it’s the only one I ever received at my wisc.edu address to hold such significance. It reminds me to be the Elizabeth in other people’s lives—to let others know they’re not alone. Because a thoughtful email? It can change everything.

So today, take a minute to consider: Who could you lift up? Send a short note of support or encouragement—to a friend, an organization you support, a stranger on Twitter, the atheist freshman in your Spanish 203 class.

That quick email might be one your recipient holds on to for years and years to come.

Your words matter, and you can use them to make a difference today.


This post is also published on Medium.

The Line I Wish Michelle Obama Hadn’t Said in Her Badass DNC Speech

MichelleObama

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch Michelle Obama’s fantastic speech here.

It’s hopeful, powerful, and evokes emotion.

I was getting chills while watching, which I can’t say is a common occurrence for me.

And then she said 10 words which made me absolutely cringe.

Ten words which made me wonder how closely my values actually aligned with hers after all.

She said:

“Because this, right now, is the greatest country on Earth.”

Noooo, Michelle! What?!

Not you, too.

Before I go any further, here’s what came immediately before that line, for context:

“So don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again.”

I understand the point is to counter Trump, but there were so many other ways she could have done this.

But instead, she called America the greatest country on Earth.

Says who? And by what standards?

Are we looking at overall quality of life? Number of Olympic medals won? Advances in technology? The health of our citizens? Tastiest food options? Lowest unemployment rates? Quality of public education? Etc.

You know what, I don’t even want to entertain this half of it. Because criteria aside—and ignoring the fact that we’re absolutely not the “greatest” in so many categories—why are we speaking about a greatest country on the planet to begin with?

Why must there be a first place?

This isn’t a competition.

This is life: the daily struggles, the joys, the love, the grief, the curiosity, the adrenaline rush, the tears, the pride—our stories, past and present.

Why does that need to be ranked?

It doesn’t.

And it shouldn’t.

To me, “greatest country on Earth” sounds as foolish as “greatest parent on Earth.” There are tons of amazing parents on this planet. There’s no need—nor any good in—singling out one parent that’s better than all the rest.

How would that help us overcome the challenges that the world faces today?

How would that leave the world better off for the next generation?

So here’s what I say:

America is great.

And so is this planet.

So by working together with our fellow citizens of the world, we can all keep this world great—for everyone.

Cracking Humanity, One Egg at a Time

A week after the Paris attacks, November 2015


Tap tap, crack. Swoosh, plop.

I don’t know how many eggs I’ve cracked in my life, but there seems to be a common rhythm to it.

Tap it once or twice against the side of any hard surface, crack apart the two halves, and let the soft innards drop gently into the dish. Then toss the shells into the compost, garbage or sink.

Today my egg-cracking took an interesting turn of events.

I was making a chocolate cake-in-a-mug, using the same recipe my boyfriend Damien and I had followed the night before. I’m not exactly sure why I took the whole egg over to the trash can to begin with, but I did.

Just before heading there, I had a hazy, quick flashback to a moment from last night’s cake-in-a-mug-making session. When I’d picked up the first egg to crack it, he’d quickly let out an exasperated “Mais qu’est-ce que tu fais?” (Wait, what are you doing?), took the egg from me, and cracked it himself.

Damien says I was going to add it in the wrong order or something like that, but I was under the impression that he had thought my hands were too full, busy stirring the dry ingredients. Whatever the case, Damien had continued to comment about my near egg-cracking faux pas while taking over, and then stepped on our trash can’s foot pedal and tossed in the empty shell himself.

So since I was baking alone today, when it came time to crack the egg, I had a split-second, subconscious doubt that I might screw it up—as had almost happened last night (from Damien’s perspective). Thus apparently I thought that it would be a good idea to have my foot already pressed down on the trash can pedal before cracking the egg.

The whole 2-second scene went down like this:

I stepped my foot on the pedal to open the trash can lid. Since I was now in such proximity, I hit the egg twice on the side of the metal trash bin, covered by a liner, to crack it open. During that split second, my mind contemplated the cleanliness of breaking an egg on this part of a trash can, but I quickly decided what I was doing was okay—because it’s just the shell that’s making contact with the upper part of the trash bin.

I’d finished my “tap, tap,” and next always comes the crack, swish…

And just as the yolk end egg whites fell to the bottom of the trash can, I realized the foolish thing I’d done. But it was too late.

There was no way to save that egg at this point, so I tossed the shell in right after it, shaking my head at the complete idiocy I’d just committed.

I just cracked an egg straight into the garbage.

I continued to shake my head, asking myself, “Wait a minute, did you really just do that?”

And this got me thinking—why?

How could I have done something so stupid?

I chalked it up to habit. A sort of muscle memory, have you.

Tap tap, crack. Swoosh, plop.

Twenty-six years of egg cracking has ingrained that pattern in my mind.

I continued to let my thoughts wander, as if I needed this tiny, brainless event to amount to something significant. So I asked myself: What other actions are so strongly a part of me, that I would follow them through as quickly as I had cracked that egg into the trash?

Better yet, what reactions to certain cues are part of human nature?

When there is terror, do we automatically react with rage and attack, or do we arm ourselves with love and kindness?

I have seen both reactions in the past few days.

Although I’m upset and angry—feeling the depth of this loss, its barbarity, and its evil—I know through my core that war is not the answer.

War will never be the answer.

Let’s use words. We are fully capable of talking and communicating like civilized human beings of the modern world. There is certainly no shortage of communication tools, multilingual people, and technology.

It’s not as simple as translating, I know very well. That’s why the term “cross-cultural communication” exists. The more time I spend living abroad, the more examples I see of how cultures and languages really do affect a group’s perception of a concept. But smiles, love, and laughs are universal—just like human struggle, pain, loss, and grief.

So let’s also put love in the spotlight. We can use our skills, talents, and drive to create more love.

I can’t single-handedly stop ISIS from terrorizing people, but I can create more love in the world. I can make a difference. We all can.

Most of us can clearly remember a time in our lives when someone else told us “you can” or “you can’t.”

Be someone who tells others they can. More compassion all around can encourage someone to bring to life the treasures inside them—whether you know it at the time or not. It’s a ripple effect.

Include others. Create supportive communities. Smile at your cashier and ask them how their day is going. Stand up for someone getting singled out. Lend a helping hand. Teach others what you’ve learned. Share your love and compassion.

You don’t have to be the next Gandhi. But what if you unknowingly play a role in inspiring or sharing strength with “the next Gandhi”?

Every day, each of your interactions affects others’ lives—shaping their beliefs, values, and perspectives—often in ways you’ll never know.

Just as I will never know if my small egg-cracking faux pas, which eventually led to this very article, will change your actions.

But I’ll continue to share my encouragement, with the belief that we can tip the balance of all interactions in the world to weigh on the positive side.

Tap tap, crack. Swoosh, plop.

Let’s crack open the core of humanity and let the love flow.