If you’ve been living under a rock, our planet is going through a real rough time right now.
For starters, acts of injustice are being committed on a near daily basis. Whether it is a police officer targeting and hurting someone because of race in an American city or an attack on an Ariana Grande concert in the UK, there are acts of immense hatred in our world. It hurts my heart to see the images coming in from Syria and knowing that so many innocent families are suffering. However, there’s still a sort of forgotten about war being waged in South Sudan and numerous other atrocities occurring that we are not shown by the media if we do not seek it out ourselves.
Back home, the United States has wavering faith in our leadership – half the country believed Hillary Clinton being president would be a grave mistake, and the other half believes that Donald Trump serving as president is just that. We are so extremely polarized and divided, believing that the other side is un-American, immoral and nearly evil. Instead of trying to understand one another, we are so quick to jump on any opportunity to attack the other side’s credibility. Conservatives had a field day with the Kathy Griffin incident recently, while liberals continually mock Trump’s tweets. I’m quite honestly disgusted with the behaviors of both groups. My political views are pretty much down the middle, and thank goodness there isn’t an election tomorrow because I couldn’t back either party at this moment. I had to recently install a Chrome plugin that removes politics from some sites; how absolutely horrifying that we cannot discuss our differences without it being blown up into character attacks and overgeneralization. Where is the calming, unifying, forward-thinking leadership that we need to get us treating one another like countrymen instead of enemies?
Don’t even get me started on other macro-level issues we have to deal with (PREVIEW: Climate change is happening and if you think this is a partisan issue, it’s not; our lives will be affected more and more from our own destruction of the planet). There are too many to list out here, and because bringing them up would polarize those of you reading this, I will refrain from trying. I strongly suggest you inform yourself on the major issues of the day. (EDIT: Link is to Reuter’s, which is an international news service and is pretty freaking unbiased compared to CNN, NBC, and Fox News, so I don’t regret linking that for ya)
And then there’s just the day to day interactions I see in person and on social media. Not only do people get their sources wrong (or fail to have a source to back up their claims), they can be real mean, y’all.
Simply existing in this cesspool of negativity can be overwhelming. A lot of this is out of our control, (yes, I understand the macro-level of the issues at hand) but is the little we can control really the best we can do? Are we choosing to go high in our every interaction, when our moral fiber is challenged, and especially when it’s hard?
How can we really change the world? Through small actions.
Say “I love you.” Exude positivity and love to those you encounter, whether they’re strangers or family. You have no idea what is weighing on the person who snapped at you at Starbucks or cut you off this morning. Smile at people. Hold the door open. Participate in random acts of kindness. Share your feelings. Be the reason why people believe there is still good in the world.
And make sure to love yourself. How can you expect to put love into the world for others to feel if you don’t feel any for yourself? Forgive yourself for making mistakes and your imperfections. Focus on being the best version of you from here on out.
Seek out those that are different from you. Learn from them. Try to understand their everyday experiences and struggles. Coming from St. Louis and Purdue, two relatively conservative areas, to Chicago was a big wake up call for me. I’m extremely moderate politically, but I had no idea how much my privilege biased my day-to-day interactions, unbeknownst to me. I have learned so much about other religions and cultures in my year in Chicago, and I am forever grateful for the experience to do so. I’ve seen firsthand that Islam is full of love and peace and its followers are bright, intelligent and inclusive people. I have witnessed outrage channeled into peaceful and constitutional protests in both Black Lives Matter events and the Women’s March, not the destructive things people post about on Facebook. I’ve also been able to learn from avid Trump and Hillary supporters who were all educated, and respectful. Put faces to the words you’ve seen on the news. You will realize, as I have, that we are all far more similar than we are different.
Find your passion and pursue it. This type of contribution is what the world needs from you. You should want to leave this place better than it was when you found it, and what better way to add some beauty than with the work of your heart and soul? Whether it’s running, interior design, writing, dance, dogs, graphic design, mountain climbing – do what sets your soul on fire . For me, it’s just this: Spilling my heart on the internet and having the courage not to give a f if people don’t like it.
Don’t take the easy way out. We can turn a blind eye and be apathetic, but that only ends up hurting us in the long run. Challenge yourself to do the right thing, even when it is hard. If something happens and you are a witness, step up and defend decency.
Fight for what you believe in. Stick to your guns and continue to resist the negativity when your beliefs are challenged. Most importantly, do so in a respectful way. We seem to have forgotten the art of disagreeing, so don’t add to the problem, be a solution!
Put your money where your mouth is. Ariana Grande made a move in the right direction over the weekend, choosing to rise from the ashes of a horrible tragedy and promote unity while raising money for the victims of the Manchester attack. Some suggestions of worthy causes: UNICEF, the Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, ACLU, Doctors Without Borders. Words of support are great, but they have more power when they have money behind them. We can all afford a few bucks a month to help our fellow humans.
Have hope. It may be tough, but we must always have hope that tomorrow will be better. Positive thinking will lead to positive actions.
Of course, I’m a 22-year-old writing this on my blog at midnight, and pressing “Publish” will not resolve the world’s issues. I simply hope this reminds us all that our lives, our attitudes, and our actions, no matter how small in the grand scheme of things, matter. We are not helpless because we can always have some microlevel of controlling change – let’s make sure it’s positive 🙂