I had an experience today that bolstered my faith in humanity. It goes back to a point I made in another entry about the importance of concrete action in support of high ideals. Yes, words matter. But so, too, do actions.
Some would say that we are, as a species, fundamentally good or bad. But I believe we each possess the potential for both poles of our nature, our behavior. When we become ensnared in ideologies and allow too much space to come between ourselves and the people with whom we saddle all sorts of cultural baggage, we drift towards one pole or another.
I’m not sure it’s possible to see people as abstracts and also to be real–with ourselves or others. We become a sort of ideological human shade. What we think about the wider world, beyond the bounds of our intimate community, becomes our representation. But if we are more complex than this, if it’s not our whole story, the same goes for all those idea-strangers floating out in the ether.
It’s impossible to be a racist if you have immersive experience within and make empathetic connections with a community of people who populate a racist stereotype. The trouble is that most people don’t. And quite beyond being an unpleasant human being, this lack of empathy represents how they cheat themselves.
We talk about unity. We talk about love and joy, peace and harmony–but for many, those are paper letters on a string, shadows on the stark expanse of a backlit comment window. This is when words lose much of their substance and serve only to mock themselves, because they are hollow without empathy or action.
So, I urge you to find a way to put the laws of physics behind your words and ideas. Give them mass, weight…consciousness. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” to steal from Mohandas Gandhi. And in that light, pilfer the world’s stock of good ideas, of kind thoughts, of inspiring movements, and breathe life into them.
Below is a Facebook post I made earlier today that gives me hope and motivates me to put my actions where my words are.
So, I wanted to share something that happened to me today, in the midst of all the political and social angst.
I was at the store, because I needed stuff, and my PayPal payment usually posts on Saturday when I request a transfer on Friday mornings. Hence, I didn’t check my bank balance before shopping.
As I went to pay for my items, I realized that the deposit had not yet posted, a rare but possible event. I was resigned to going without until tomorrow–a hardship, but I was determined to put a good face on it.
The lady behind me spoke up and told the cashier that she would pay my tab as well as her own. After some back and forth–“oh, I couldn’t possibly’s” and “yes, you could’s”, I thanked her and introduced myself, shaking her hand.
Her name is Lisa and I will probably never see her again, but I promised to pass on her kindness to another in need at my earliest opportunity.
Thank you, Lisa. I cannot say it enough, and I will never forget this event.