Small, Great Things

Have you ever considered how many people have been downright mean to you in your life? Have you, like me, been threatened by a parent, teacher, sibling, friend, lover or even your own child? Have you been corrected by a coworker, belittled by a boss or even shamed by a Shaman? I have.

It’s a wonder, really, that we can get out of bed, especially in the first half of our lives, when so many of our superiors, friends and family members act that way. For every time I was praised, I was ignored, made fun of, dismissed, provoked or looked down upon much more regularly. And I’m a white man! And before that, I was a white boy in a nice suburb!

I am aware of this now because of three reasons. First, our country was recently ruled by a bully. Second, I’ve surrounded myself with less angry people and only retained those friends who are really friendly, and third, I recognize in myself when I act like a shithead.

The process of thinning out the herd where one removes from his life those who are mean and petty (by creating boundaries) is the second greatest gift we can give ourselves. The best gift is to figure out how to stop ourselves from being “one of those people” to the best of our ability.

The fact that we have a political party run by a narcissistic bully with zero ability to tell right from wrong is, of course, both a national disgrace and a reason to buy an apartment in Canada (as one of my wisest and oldest friends has done). But it also concerns me in this era of school shootings, environmental catastrophe and a new Cold War that most of us, myself included, can get up every day and function.

But maybe we’re not functioning so well. Perhaps we are a nation of addicts, partisans, and racists who are going to “hell in a hand basket,” as my Nana Stephanie used to say.

I think not. Instead, I see us (and myself) as people on the cusp of implementing what we already know to be true in our hearts. We’re sick of hating and being hated. We no longer want to point our fingers and be pointed at. Simply put, a big part of us is longing for love.

Brene Brown

Last night, I heard Brene Brown speak of “the dying, last gasp of the white male” in the world order, a group that will not go down without a fight. I think this is true. In myself, I know that giving up my privilege is right, but hard. In my DNA there is an outdated sense that we boys were meant to rule as men in government, business and in our homes and organizations. It’s how we were raised, too.

So, the punishing and berating I spoke of earlier? That’s the gnashing of teeth we all experience as power over others is being debated. But make no mistake – it’s not equal. Women and many, many other groups feel it much more than people who look like me. The poor and the people who aren’t white and who don’t have generational wealth and those who have been imprisoned are much, much worse off. These people are really pissed and will, eventually, inherit the earth. They deserve it and we may all be better for it.

So, let’s start today by increasing our forgiveness. Let’s imagine what it’s like to be the other guy. It’s easy, really, to let someone go first and say, “I’m in no hurry.” Small, great things. Random acts of kindness. Peace be with you and with you and with you.

Note: the title of this post is from a wonderful Jodi Picoult novel of the same name. She was paraphrasing an MLK quote.

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