Everyday you see it—the seemingly minor things that go undone. Litter not picked up; too lazy to recycle; turn-signals forgotten; illegal parking; passing a school bus; breaking in line; not holding the door open for someone; not cleaning up after your dog; buying a pet instead of adopting one—too many things ignored and overlooked.
Is it lack of time or lack of conscience that makes a person skip voting or feed their kids fast food or drive too fast? Is it greed that makes a person a bad tipper or is it just too small a matter for them to care about? Well, sometimes I suppose it’s just plain ignorance. And ignorant behavior can come from the most educated and well-heeled fool. Good conduct and common sense can be the property of a poor man. And stupid actions are contagious.
When you see someone else do a lazy or self-absorbed thing, it kinda gives you justification to replicate that same act. Or not? Maybe it just makes you madder than hell.
Every morning on my way to work too many things make me angry or just plain head shaking sad. Two miles, that’s all it takes to see humanity acting less than humane, less than courteous. Outside a coffee shop cars park illegally, blocking fire hydrants, bus stops, and emergency turn lanes. Under the Claiborne overpass, losers and boozers feign destitution, scamming drivers with bogus needs while truly homeless families go without—usurping the kindness of strangers who might otherwise donate to the deserving helpless. Cars run red lights and others drift into the bike lane while texting. The bus stop is littered and the trashbin sits near empty. Oh, the small things that get under my skin and cause an itch to my disposition.
“Let it go,” I am told. I even tell myself this. There are bigger things out there to cry or rant about. Yet it all comes back to a small moment or motion that gives a beginning to the out of control problems. In the U.S. 90,000 fires annually (forests or homes) begin with a tossed cigarette butt. Our country is littered with 176,000,000 pounds of cigarette butts a year. An unwanted child or abortion is caused by a careless lover. Yearly, three to four million shelter animals are euthanized because people will not take responsibility for their care. In 2011 23% of all car collisions involved cell phones. A single bullet can end a life.
It’s a fact that those small things and picayune acts can have powerful consequences. We all see and experience the daily crap that sucks away the positive. But what about the flip side? If it takes so little to create havoc, if laziness can mess up so much—then what about the strength of thoughtfulness or kindness?
Well, first, we have to lose that I’m just one person, what difference can I make mentality. Assume responsibility and enjoy the ability to make a difference. Just as poor behavior can be contagious, so can good. Set the example. Pick up a piece of litter at a playground and before long someone will join in. “Finders keepers, losers weepers” is merely an excuse to keep what it not rightfully yours—try your damndest to return it before making a claim. You will be on the receiving end one day and grateful for the other person’s effort and honesty.
Think about Katrina and the healing power of all those small donations of money, time, and sweat that contributed so much to our rebuilding. People came together and their personal efforts swelled into a collective. Maybe one person alone couldn’t gut a home, but multiply that one effort and whole neighborhoods were rebuilt. Witnessing the power of another’s kindness is infectious—you realize that small efforts do move mountains of trouble.
You either pay-it-forward or allow a deficient of indifference to grow. The concern and care by one individual is how movements, causes, and reforms come about. Back in 1955, one lady on a bus made a difference. A Civil Rights Movement was galvanized with a mother’s heartbreak as she allowed the world to view her murdered son’s body. A man named Bill began to save lives that otherwise would have ended next to an empty vodka bottle.
It is so easy to feel helpless and think that our small efforts mean nothing, but this is completely wrong. We have power as voters, consumers, workers, and employers. We also can simply reach down and pick up three pieces of litter a day. In a year that reverses 1,095 small acts of disrespect. Did you know that one mated pair of cats and their offspring can produce 80 million cats in ten years? Change this equation by sponsoring a spay/neuter program.
So you have a choice: negative or positive. Exponentially one fine moment, one modest donation, a single act of bravery, even just a kind word can change the course of the world with time. Perhaps I can find a way to make good of my two mile trek to work each day—discovering the fineness that is obscured by the misdemeanors and misdeeds to create small changes here and there.