Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. – Dalai Lama
I’ve noticed an ugly trend lately – America is getting meaner. For the past few decades, there had been what appears to be a shift in our culture toward the negative.
Social media is used to bully and demean, political parties resort to name-calling, violence is commonplace, and few even use the basic manners. The images I see and encounters I have on a daily basis feed the image of the “Ugly American.”
A prime example is how the Twittersphere lit up during the Presidential Inauguration. During the day’s events, a stream of tweets went out commenting on the appearance and behavior of a ten-year-old boy, Barron Trump. I will admit the media commentators have a history of saying negative things about presidential children, but these comments cross the line into the realm of bullying. Before the advent of social media these comments would have had a much smaller audience, today within seconds the entire world has been exposed.
I see it with my own students. The words “please” and “thank you” are not common in their vocabulary. Yesterday, when one literally knocked me over, his response was “by bad, ” and he kept moving. Many seem to think nothing of talking about threatening someone for the slightest wrong. Boys speak of girls as if they were only good for one thing.
Many of the teens and adults meet as I go through my day, seem to feel any thought which crosses their mind should be spoken aloud, regardless of the consequences. And when the outcome is negative, they respond as if they are the victim.
This saddens me. There was a time I could have a conversation with someone whose point of view differed from mine without it turning into an argument. We could disagree without being disagreeable.
Maybe it is time to actively work to recapture that part of the past when we were polite to each other and treated our fellow citizens with respect.
When I was growing up my parents expected me to treat others, even those who showed me disrespect, respect.
One reminder was the “Thumper Rule.” If you have seen the Disney film Bambi, you’ll remember this. In the scene where we meet the little rabbit, Thumper, he repeats a lesson from his father, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
This was often repeated when I as a child when I would speak ill of someone. There is a difference between negative criticism and helpful comments. The latter is said with respect and love and not to tear the person down.
Another was “Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you have to say it.” I find myself repeating this one often to my students and hearing my own mother’s voice as I do. I think she said this to me countless time. But it’s true, not every thought needs to be given voice.
When I was in college, I covered my dorm walls with inspirational quotes. One was a bust of Plato with these words: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. Everyone I meet is facing their own difficulties. I don’t know what they are, but I can choose to be kind and not add to their hardships.
In March of 2014, the Dalai Lama visited Capitol Hill and address members of Congress. During his speech, he said “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Even in the most heated of situations, I can choose to be kind and take about the facts and not make personal attacks.
Recently I ran across a poster that had a great acronym: T.H.I.N.K. Before you speak, tweet, post, Instagram, or text ask yourself – Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? In other words, why are you saying this? I have it in my classroom, and it is often used to direct conversations.
As Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” I hope my words, my writing, my actions are ripples sending kindness, love, and respect out into the world.
Until next time, remember . . .
The door is always open the kettle is always on.