Anyone alive today who hasn't been trapped in a sensory deprivation tank as part of some CIA experiment over the past five years knows that something is terribly wrong with our country. No, not necessarily our politics...but us. We human beings are a mess. We treat each other terribly. We have become mean, rude, impatient, hateful, inconsiderate, selfish, greedy, narcissistic animals. But anyone who suggests solutions to our behavioral problems using either politics or religion as the cure gets summarily dismissed as a partisan. The truth is that there is no simple solution at hand that will reverse a centuries old degradation of manners. What ails humanity is complex beyond understanding. However, the world's longest journey begins with a single step. Just because the simple things are...simple, that doesn't mean they are worthless.
What follows are a few such simple suggestions for my fellow Americans. I have given this a lot of thought and think that these are things that everyone of us are capable of doing. They require no changes to our political views, and no religious epiphany. The adoption of these suggestions will not transform our nation into paradise, but I believe the result of their adoption would be a life which would suck far less. Here goes...
Seriously, how easy would it be to hang on to that receipt from CVS until you get to the car instead of flicking it unto the asphalt of the parking lot as soon as you leave the store? When you litter...when you use God's creation as your garbage can...you are essentially saying you don't care about anyone except yourself. It's the Olympic gold standard of selfishness. Not only should you never litter, how about picking up someone else's litter when you see it? You're hiking in the woods somewhere and out of nowhere you come upon an empty bag of Cheetos. It's not enough to mutter in disgust, "stupid idiot...what was he thinking??!!" Pick the thing up!!! Maybe we should all never leave the house without a trash bag for the car to have a place to put trash that we find on the street. Imagine how cleaner our world would be if we all picked up someone else's litter every day?
Pay more attention to old people.
They are everywhere. People are living longer. It's nothing anymore for people to live well into their nineties. As a result, old people are all around us. You see them at the grocery store with their electric carts. You see them shuffling along at the mall. You watch them struggle with the hose at the gas station. How about we all start honoring them by looking after them? Ask them if they need any help with anything. Offer to help them across the street. Look in on them more often than we do. Not just our own parents, but our elderly neighbors. A lot can be learned about a society by how they treat their seniors. By any standard, we don't measure up to the basic standard laid out 4000 years ago...honor they father and mother. So, how about we pay better attention to them. Bring them a meal every once in a while. Cut some flowers and drop them by. Offer to cut their grass when it gets terribly hot. Honor them.
Give single parents a break.
It's happened to all of us. We settle down in our seat on the plane, start flipping through the Sky Mall magazine, then our hearts sink when we see the harried, single mom board the plane with a crying infant and an obnoxious toddler in tow. Our hearts sink because we are pissed at how their presence on the flight will inconvenience us. The fact is that no one on the entire airplane is having a worse day than that single mom. Instead of slapping on head phones and hunkering down, would it kill any of us to gin up some empathy? Try to remember what it was like back in the day when you were the one traveling with your kids. Only you had your husband or wife with you! I saw a story the other day about a man on a plane somewhere who offered to walk a single mother's crying baby up and down the aisle of the plane to calm him so the mom could get some rest. He was a total stranger to this beleaguered mom but offered to help because he was a dad himself and knew what it was like to have a crying baby. Give that man the Nobel Peace Prize, I say. Any of us could have done that. Being a single parent has to be the hardest job in the world. Mostly it's single mothers, but there are single dads out there too. They deserve our love and care and sympathy.
On race...listen more, talk less.
On matters of race in this country, everyone has an opinion. I do. When someone starts criticizing my opinions on race, my immediate reaction is to launch myself into debate mode. I write a blog...I love debate! So when the subject of Black Lives Matter, or reparations or police brutality come up, I begin formulating my response, and while I'm doing that, it's hard if not impossible...to listen. Nothing is more frustrating than the feeling that nobody is listening to you. All of us need to figure out a way to honestly, with sincere effort, actively listen to what the other side is saying. We need to hear each other out...completely. It may not change anyone's mind. But it will allow us to enter into a thorough exchange of views, which at least will give all of us the privilege of being heard. That has to be an improvement, right?
Each of these four simple things is doable. All of us have it within us to stop littering, to take a minute to take better care of our older neighbors, to be more sensitive to single parents and to shut up and listen to others. None of this is hard. Well, maybe the listening thing is hard. But it's still doable. Wouldn't our world...your world be better if we did?