By Emily Erickson
I pride myself on being an active participant in the world around me, keeping a finger on the pulse of the things that matter to my community, my life and the people everywhere being pushed to the margins by their lack of access to one form of power or another. But, participation comes at a cost. The more I engage in the issues we’re collectively facing, the more I get swept up in the “glass half empty” of it all.
Gloominess is not a natural disposition for me, as I consider myself, on the whole, an optimistic person. Generally, I believe things often work out if we allow them to, that others are often willing to help if we know how to ask and that we have a lot of agency to create our own realities.
But over the past few years, I’ve felt my worldview warp. Maybe it’s the media and a grand scheme of divisiveness by the powers that be. Maybe it was a global pandemic conditioning me to be leery of people getting too close. Maybe it’s just being 30 and the late-onset anxiety (is that a thing?) that grows as naivete fades into an understanding of how the world works.
I’ve found, however, that the remedy to the “glass half empties” is actively seeking examples of people being good to one another — harnessing the power of positivity to change my way of thinking.
With that in mind, I asked my friends on Facebook and Instagram to share recent moments of kindness or joy from their own lives. The responses flipped my heart.
A traveler shared, “On my flight to North Carolina, I sat next to a mother and daughter from Mexico who didn’t speak English. They seemed disoriented, like maybe they hadn’t flown much, and as we landed, I could see the mother scrambling to understand where we were and how to deplane following the ‘proper etiquette.’ The woman across the aisle from me helped them with their bags.
“In the terminal, the daughter was desperately seeking help from a gate employee in finding their next flight. The employee just kept saying, ‘Check the screen,’ which, of course, they couldn’t understand or read. As if choreographed, the same woman from across the aisle and I converged on the distressed mother and daughter, figuring out which of the several Mexico City flights were theirs, and delivered them to their gate.
“Walking back to our respective terminal locations, the woman and I shared stories of our own travel disorientation and being saved by the kindness of others. As we parted, tethered together by the experience, the woman observed, ‘There’s still goodness in the world, even in an airport.’”
A teacher shared, “Our high school baseball team was playing in the state championship semi final — a big deal for the team and the community. The game descended into a pitchers’ battle, and suddenly, we were losing 2-1 at the bottom of the seventh inning. A freshman stepped up to the plate with two outs on the count and the weight of the game riding on his young shoulders. He struck out.
“Head visibly hanging, he trudged back to the team, slumping with defeat. But, before he could even get to the dugout, a senior — whose high school career was now over — met him on the field and wrapped him in a big hug. He whispered inaudible words of encouragement to the freshman, whose face transformed with relief. That kind of leadership, kindness toward someone who was suffering, is a reminder that the best examples of humanity are all around us if we just pay attention long enough to see it.”
Finally, a mother shared, “I was heading into the grocery store when I noticed a man in rough shape sitting on a duffel bag near the entrance. He had dark skin, waist-long black hair and looked so weary. As I reached the doors, I saw two middle-aged men approach him, and my hackles raised, nervous they were going to hassle the man (a stereotype I admittedly formed from their general appearance).
“I held back and pretended to mess with my cart for a second, in case the situation escalated. But, instead, the two began to earnestly ask the man about his situation, how he got to town, if he had a place to live and if he had family in the area. They were calm and kind and really listened to the man’s responses.
“Afterward, they both shook his hand, stating that everyone goes through tough times, and that they’d have a room waiting for him at the hotel down the road for a week. They explained they’d take care of the logistics after they finished grocery shopping and all he’d have to do was give his name at the desk. They also shared that if he wanted work in town, they could help, ‘But no pressure,’ they said. The man with the duffel got visibly emotional and thanked them ‘from the bottom of [his] heart.’
“The entire interaction caught me off-guard with its kindness. It was a wonderful real-life reminder to check my prejudices and preconceptions, show compassion and kindness, and pay it forward whenever possible.”
Emily Erickson is a writer and business owner with an affinity for black coffee and playing in the mountains. Connect with her online at www.bigbluehat.studio.
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