I have always believed that people are inherently good. People are born with kind hearts; gratitude is our factory setting. It is only through conditioning and adverse experiences that those hearts harden and selfishness plants a seed in our otherwise golden hearts. So, when I see hate and violence both in the streets of our world and in the realm of social media, my mind can’t make sense of it. It’s like trying to fit a square into the circle space on a child’s puzzle. I can try to jam it in as hard as I can, but the piece just doesn’t fit, leaving me with the decision to throw away the piece or readjust the puzzle board to make it fit. What do I do when our world presents me with thousands and thousands of squares like it has lately? What can I do then?
I don’t want to readjust my puzzle board. I am not ready to let go of the idea that people are born good and that they want to be good. But how am I to come to terms with the pain people cause each other? People use each other. People break hearts without explanations. Parents abandon their kids. Kids disobey their parents, sneak around, steal, and turn to drugs. Partners cheat and lie and stop making love work. Groups burn businesses and clash in the streets over problems that could be solved with conversations. How am I to sustain my belief that people are set for kindness when they do things like this?
My mom always would tell me the expression, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Maybe that’s the key. Maybe I don’t have to make the piece fit into my puzzle, and maybe I don’t have to throw it out either. Maybe life isn’t a puzzle but rather a ship in the sea, and I can observe the roaring waves without letting them sink my ship. I can observe the pain and the hatred without letting it harden my heart. I think the world needs more people like that. The world needs more people that can empathize with the pain rather than letting it harden them. The world needs more people to believe in its inherent goodness, so that we can preserve it and spread it, rather than succumbing to the pain that we cause each other. Maybe we can heal, one golden heart at a time.
That’s one thing I have discovered in my short life: small acts matter. Small acts of kindness have ripple effects. It doesn’t matter if you believe that all people are born good, what matters is that you sustain your goodness. You be the light, even if the world is dark. You choose the lens of gratitude and abundance, even if the world chooses the lens of lack. You choose peace and continue to choose peace when you face conflict and confrontation. Imagine the kind of world we could live in if people chose to be good. Imagine the kind of change we could create if everyone rooted themselves in love over fear. Imagine the beauty of a world in which we chose acceptance of the other, even if we didn’t fully agree with them or understand where they are coming from.
The challenge of today isn’t to prove that we are right, the challenge of today is to prove that we are kind. Do something nice today, just because. Smile at a stranger. Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru. Compliment someone’s outfit. Hold the door. Post a picture of nature instead of a political fire starter. Small acts add up. Let’s show the world that our factory setting is kindness. Let’s start with ourselves and see the ripple effects.