There were three bumper stickers on the huge, black SUV. The one I could read the most easily said, “Your mortgage is not my responsibility.” As I pulled alongside the SUV at a stoplight, I absently glanced at the driver. Fierce eyes in a scowling face met mine with such a glare that it startled me. Quickly turning away, I couldn’t help but wonder what this stranger was like with people he actually knows and actively dislikes. What misery it must be to go through life locked in such anger and rigidity that an exchange of glances on a shared road turns into a confrontation.
I envision a bumper sticker that reads, “If society suffers, we ourselves suffer.” A shot of that man’s anger sure spreads the suffering around.
The month of February is traditionally bursting with hearts, flowers and chocolate as Valentine’s Day puts love squarely in the spotlight. How can we keep it there in this post-9/11 world fueled by uncertainty, anxiety and fear? How are we to love one another when we can’t even be nice to one another?
In The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life, Piero Ferrucci says, “If we give warmth, we do not end up feeling cold.” In the shadow of bitterly divisive politics, the Tucson shooting, shaky economies everywhere, rioting in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Albania… you name it… the entire planet could use an emotional warm-up. I’m proposing the following suggestions as a February Call to Kindness:
• Pay attention to the insidious ways nastiness shows up in your speech, thoughts, actions, judgments, and put a stop to it. I have to ask myself how criticizing what a celebrity is wearing (or not wearing) to an award show improves the quality of my life – or anyone else’s.
• Turn off the divisive talk radio and television shows. One clue is that if people are getting paid to yell at each other, there’s a better focus for me somewhere else.
• Mentally surround and fill negative people you know or encounter with Divine Light. I want Bumper Sticker Man to feel it.
• Go on a gossip fast. (See first bullet.) Yikes, so much harder than I imagined!
• Practice forgiveness. Think of the grace of Nelson Mandela or the Amish.
• Express opinions thoughtfully and respectfully. Declare a moratorium on swearing. Make a distinction between listening and talking.
• Listen attentively, without interrupting.
• Be the change you want to see in the world, a reflection of the Presence within.
If you have ideas to add to this list, please email them to me and I’ll post them on my blog. Spread the word. The kinder we are, the happier we can be. Truly. Aldous Huxley said, “People often ask me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say the best answer is – just be a little kinder.”
A quick caution from Piero Ferrucci: “We can be kind only if the past no longer dominates us.” If you need help getting out from under past resentments and baggage, go see Lucy!