Instead of shaking my head and mumbling some angry comments several times a day or yelling at the TV to no avail, I feel compelled to put my thoughts down in writing, but gently, with the goal of engaging others, instead of disengaging and hurting. Why does one start a blog? I’m not sure why I am trying my hand at blogging, but it seems to stem from a deep sense of frustration about the state of our country, our world and our humanity. How did our discussions about almost every imaginable topic devolve into vitriolic diatribes on the internet and in the more traditional media? I read the local online newspaper, but stay clear of the comments by readers, because they have become so hateful and purposeless. There is rarely anything positive, constructive or helpful in the responses. Rather, they are petty and biting. When I read them I feel my blood pressure rising, so now I just avoid them. Politics, religion, healthcare, sexual preferences, life choices are all topics that generate anger and create vast divides between people. Discussions on these topics all too often hurt others and far too frequently end friendships and strain family relationships. We should not avoid having these important conversations with those who have opposing views, but rather engage them in a respectful and civil manner. It is often the tone that allows these discussions to devolve into angry shouting matches, that shuts everyone down, causing an even greater divide. Such behavior can only continue the cycle of misunderstanding, anger and hate. It is my sincere hope that this blog becomes a space for positive, civilized and fruitful discussions about a myriad of ideas and topics, including our world, our country, our families and most importantly our humanity. Surely, they are all intricately connected. If we can exchange ideas with respect and honesty, knowing that no one person has all the answers or the right answers, then maybe we can begin to come together to work on the many pressing issues that plague our society.
Since this is my first post and I am just testing the waters, I would like to propose a challenge. As an introduction to that challenge, I want to explain my thinking. Back in the mid-80’s, I was the Director of Volunteers at a large medical center in New York City. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic and the hospital was overrun with very, very sick HIV+ and full blown AIDS patients. This was before the any antiviral drugs were discovered, so patients just got sicker and sicker until they died. The needs of these very sick patients were overwhelming and staff and volunteers worked tirelessly to somehow bring some bright spots to their days of anguish. It was through many “small acts of kindness” by dedicated volunteers and staff that made a horrific situation bearable. It raised our hopes and our humanity. It was magical and uplifting to watch a wealthy dowager from Park Avenue sit at the bedside of a very sick gay man and feed him, because his family and friends had abandoned him and did not come to visit. These two people had little, if anything, in common. By reaching out, showing compassion, wanting to make some small difference, we all got through those awful days. More recently, we can relate to the horrors of 9/11. Living in NY, I was witness once again to so many acts of kindness by people from all walks of life. Stranger helping stranger. Once again, these many small acts of kindness were magical, uplifted us and got us through those unbearably painful days. It was because of that unbearable pain that the only thing we could do was to reach out to others and in some small way help. There was an overwhelming need by thousands of people to volunteer; to do something positive. I know we all have those instincts, but somehow we have found ourselves in silos of extreme ideas and no longer reach out to others or come together on important issues through negotiation and compromise.
The challenge I propose is for all of us to pause during our hectic days, take a deep breathe and offer up a simple act of kindness to a friend, a relative or even better, a stranger. Just think about the extraordinary possibilities of what we could achieve, if every one of us on this planet took a few moments each day to be kind.