I’ve been thinking lately. The world around us has been crazy. I recognize that election cycles bring this sort of angry division to the forefront, but it certainly isn’t solely in and political discourse and nasty advertisements. It’s on Facebook and highways and in grocery stores and schools, Tuesday afternoons and Sunday mornings. Nowhere is exempt from this rage-filled polarization, seeping into the culture and transforming it into it’s own image.
Or is it?
Of course I see the mean posts, condescending looks, the (physical, emotional, spiritual) violence. How could I miss them? But they remain exceptions. I mostly find people to be kind, gracious, smart, funny, and generous.
Once I read that negative experiences print on our souls immediately, positive experiences take much longer to make an impact. This is why you can get 900 hearts or thumbs up and forget them, and 1 mean face emoji and wonder why for the rest of the day, week, year. That 1 mean face seems to weigh significantly more than 900 hearts.
Is that why the 1 person that cut us off on the road today stings in our brain while the rest of the relatively capable, conscientious drivers (99.99%) are unnoticed? Or the umpire’s 1 bad call trumps the 200 good ones?
I am not saying that the bad calls or dangerous risky drivers are unimportant. I’m not saying hateful posts are not problematic, or that the horrible incidents of violence should be ignored. They are symptoms of a broken world, of which we are all a part. We act out of our insecurities and fear just the same as the people that lead the news, and they all must be studied and addressed, all must be given their proper, loving attention.
What I think I am saying is that those heartbreaking incidents don’t have to steal our hope or drive us into despair. That person’s cutting remark isn’t proof that people are all awful. True, that person might be (or they might not be, they might be overwhelmed or tired or depressed or anything), but it isn’t a judgment on everyone.
My idea is that we probably get what we’re looking for. If we’re looking for fantastic songs, we’ll find them. Or smiles or empathy or help or respect or love. People hold doors open, let you go first, say hi, and are willing to spot your bench press.
The songs that suck are still there (Coldplay’s will, sadly, always exist;) but they don’t have to occupy as much of us and color as much of our outlook as we usually let them. Some marriages will still end in divorce, but lots and lots of marriages are inspiring and fulfilling. Some days it rains and the weather forecasters are shockingly wrong, and those errors stick out in our minds, but they are right waaaay more often, probably 352 days of the year.
It’s not that the good moments don’t print, it’s just that they take longer. The key is to give them that time. When someone says your shoes are nice, maybe we don’t shrug it off or tell them they’re wrong (like we so regularly do), maybe we just say “thanks,” and take a breath and appreciate our shoes and the person with the compliment with whom we should spend more time. Or look at the heart reaction on the picture of your dinner, think about the person who sent it, and count to 15. Or 100. However long it takes. Take the time to feel the softness of the skin on someone’s hand when you hold it, or the sweetness of their lips in a kiss. We all know there’s no one to vote for, but we get to vote – do we ever take the time to acknowledge how extraordinary that is?
It’s the difference between entitlement and gratitude, I suppose, and we won’t always get on the right side of that divide, but usually all it takes is some attention to the beautiful things to regain perspective. To look up and around. My son is going to have a high school “Senior Night” at the football game tonight, and if you listen carefully, wherever you are, you might hear my heart break. But I will be there, fully present. I have been there, truly been there, every day of his life so far, and I have thoroughly enjoyed those days. And yes, it’s sad that he’s not my baby boy anymore, but he’s not my baby boy anymore and that is no small gift. I will hold this moment tonight with 2 hands, I’ll cry and I’ll laugh, mourn and celebrate, and give it all the time it needs to etch into me in stone.