The sun is shining, and spring is in the air. It’s beautiful and yet there’s the heaviness of the last few weeks… While fully aware of the privilege of being able to walk, breathe deeply, and recharge my reserves through a morning walk in the woods, or through writing and reading, I am perpetually humbled by the feeling of helplessness in dealing with the many big problems unfolding in the world.
We’re being informed about horrendous humanitarian crises through news and social media, in Ukraine as the war is raging. Of course, there are awful crises unfolding in Afghanistan and Yemen. The looming climate crisis too.
We reverberate information we deem important, and I know there are many of us who do that, but the again, all it takes is a celebrity slap and there are millions of retweets of that over anything else. A reminder about societal priorities these days…
I have been mostly following the current events on Twitter, and I try to keep my attention on my curated newsfeed, trying to resist what the attention merchants have crafted for social media users (see below). Also, I have stopped posting much on Instagram for the time being. All of this makes me reconsider (yes, again) my relationship with social media and push further on digital minimalism.
If my presence on a platform means amplifying an important message or call to action for a good cause, I am all for that. It’s the least I can do and a way to show my gratitude for waking up to another day.
A recent conversation with a friend brought me back to this anchoring point. Michael is homeless and known as the perpetually smiling man who has always been a teacher of kindness in our community.
‘Every day you wake up is a day you won the lottery,’ he said the other day when I met him downtown pushing his cart through the rainy streets. He smiled as he said it. He always smiles, though not having the basics, a home first of all, may prevent most of us from smiling. Not Michael.
Once again, I was reminded that gratefulness is the solid ground we ought to stand on. It’s one day at a time. No matter how we perceive our well-being overall score to be, (because we are of course, subjective,) waking up to a new day in good health, having loved ones do the same and having the basics available (food, water, shelter) already puts one in a position of privilege.
That’s just a start, mind you. If you thought of all the things you have, and can therefore be grateful for, you’d be amazed. It’s a longer list than expected for many of us.
While it won’t change the painful realities millions of many people are experiencing at the moment, it gives us a chance to think of the things we can do within our own sphere of influence. Things that will make the small world you are part of a little better. Do what you can where you are, that is. Here’s what I mean:
- See those that are often invisible – buy food for someone in need, or consider contributing to a local homeless shelter. Acknowledge people who are struggling. Know that are giving them a worthwhile gift: the certainty that they are being seen. It matters.
- Smile to people. It’s the simplest, most unobtrusive way to add value to someone’s day. Just that, a smile. If there’s a conversation past the smile, take the time if when possible.
- Stop yourself from judging (or at least do it less each day and be intentional about it). Each one of us has much work to do on our own dealings with life, so putting energy into judging another human being is a questionable choice at best.
- Reduce your social media presence. I know, I know, but hear me out. I have removed the Twitter and Instagram apps from my phone and instead access them from my laptop, mostly the first. For example, I am learning of the latest in Ukraine by following a couple of local journalists such as Illia Ponomarenko (https://kyivindependent.com/author/illia-ponomarenko/) and some independent news outlets. I am also sharing bits of life here with a Ukrainian woman who shares her reality in the western part of the country. A lifeline of sorts and meaningful at that. Her powerful reminder today, ‘Please take care of each other. Life is so short.’
There is no manual for how to be kind and there are no instructions, except for one perhaps: be grateful and let it show through your actions towards your fellow humans. It’s the least we can all do.