A truer course to steer


I hope that each day I teach you a bit about how to turn toward light and away from dark.

I don’t mean that you need to be a creature of the day and avoid night. For too long our culture has associated night with evil and light with goodness, so linguistically that just sticks. Forgive me the sloppy metaphor, sweet one. I mean only that my sincerest wish for you is that you choose, actively, to move toward goodness. Always.

Don’t be fooled by the language of light and dark: being good and kind has nothing to do with being cheerful. Be chipper or be cynical, but I will always nudge you toward good. You can be maudlin and kind. You can be morose and nurturing. You can. Really, given what exists in this world, you must. We all must.

Because when you have to choose what kind of person to be, how to map your course and true your compass, you have to decide. Are you going become a person who hates or a person who loves?

I had some time today. Some unusual, luxurious time to read and immerse myself in humanity. To see what we, as a culture, are up to.

Results are quite varied. And instead of just wandering aimlessly through society’s publicized highs and lows, I wanted to focus on the best humanity has to offer this week. Really, we have, as a culture, been wallowing a bit in the terrifying and hateful and exhaustingly dreadful for a while. Certainly it’s important to know about and fight the yuck churning up the worst of humanity, so we can hear people in need of a voice, a hug, or a place to stay.

I spent a bit of time roiling with anger and loathing at articles like this. In it, a man who professes to know literature dismisses most of the people writing, most of the things they have written, and most of the knowledge we have, as English-speaking nations, cultivated over the past century. He refuses to engage with other opinions because he thinks he’s pretty awesome, exactly the way he is.

I stopped reading after a few paragraphs. Not because he’s a dreadful man with views I find appalling. But because I have better things to do with my time.

David Gilmour’s interview speaks of a core that refuses to hear other realities. Not listening when someone speaks about their family or their work or their passion is a pretty bleak way to live. His words are about ignoring heart.

And I reject that way of being.

So I clicked another link. Someone I trust told me that an article was important. That this is what humanity looks like. Prabhiot Singh lives his life to offer the best of himself to those around him, allowing himself to be affected by his community and finding, even in truly horrifying situations a reason to reach out and help.

You get to choose, of course. You get to decide whether to wallow in self-aggrandizement, closing your mind to people who don’t think the way you do. Or to learn from experience and not let anger and hate and truly disgusting behavior sway you from what you know is right.

I hope you see, in the people we surround ourselves with, that what matters most is kindness. That what matters is struggling to make things better, in whatever way you define better. That life is about deciding what’s right and fighting for it.

I hope that you turn toward people like Prabhjot Singh. People who find gratitude, who reject hate by continuing on their path toward love. People who deserve to know what a wonderful person you are, who can bring out the best in you, and who can teach you about other ways of thinking and doing and being. So that we can all change the world toward what is good. What is kind. What is true.

I hope that’s what I’m teaching you. I’ll keep trying. Because beyond keeping you safe, my job is to show you how to share the best of yourself with the world that is so lucky to have you.

Here’s to being a decent human being

Aside from some serious electoral euphoria today, I’m gobsmacked at how rude some people on this planet can be.

So I’m spending my morning sending sincere emails thanking people who have been decent to me lately.

I recently made a few purchases from ebay, which I never do. But we’re going to see some snow this year and the kids needed suitable clothes. We live in a snow-free wonderland and I had no success at local used clothing stores.

So I turned to ebay.

Several great experiences. And one person who sent a horribly damaged item.

So I emailed and explained that I did not get an item in “perfect condition” as described. I wanted a refund or return. I sent photos of what the item looked like out of the package.

I got a scathing, hateful email back about how I was wrong.

Not sure what I was wrong about, I politely asked customer service to mediate.

I got another hateful email about how I’m a liar and how I ruined the item on purpose to get my money back.

I held my tongue. I used a larger monitor and saw that the original photo unsuccessfully disguised the damage. Within a few hours, ebay sided with me and refunded my money.

Stomach sour with being called a liar and a cheat, I emailed all the other sellers with whom I’ve had an easy and successful transaction. I thanked them for being decent human beings. I told them I appreciated them. I gave them good feedback.

And I am rather lost now, wondering what makes people hateful and mean. I wonder why, when told that something went wrong, the person in question didn’t say, “Weird. I could have sworn it was fine, but I’ll look into it.” This person didn’t do that. She leapt at me, clawing at my throat. For ten dollars.

Why all the hate? Where is the civility? The critical thinking?

I don’t understand some of the disgusting things said by people about the election. Whomever you voted for, there are ways to say you disagree or find someone dishonest without namecalling. Whatever you believe, there are ways to teach your kids your beliefs without demeaning other ideas. In fact, having strong opinions seems to be an ideal time to teach children. Someone cuts me off in traffic I talk to my kids about road rage and how dangerous it is. About choosing your battles. About being safe instead of being right.

I tell my children what other people believe about politics, religion, and childrearing. I explain why their opinions have merit. And I say that I disagree. Sure, I explain my side a lot more thoroughly. But I don’t call names or judge or teach hatred.

What’s up with the namecalling, America? Why can’t we believe different things without attacking?

If you are a decent person, thank you. Please endeavor to be decent to someone today. And teach your kids to do the same.

Because seriously? I’m increasingly shocked when someone is nice.

And that’s a gross way to live.