“I am only one; but I am still one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” -Edward Everett Hale
What one thing can you do today?
Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you look at the world around? Do you ever look at the events that break your heart or make you wonder why and think, “sure I’d like to do something, I’d like to change things, but how? I have x number of kids, a job, responsibilities that already leave me overworked and overtired. What can I really do?”
Did you know that, “by age 3, children can be aware of racial differences and may have the perception that “white” is desirable. By age 12, they can hold stereotypes…” –Southern Poverty Law Center
As a mom, as a human, this breaks my heart. Truly I sat last weekend reading news updates and FB comments, texting friends and just ached. I talk a lot about community and giving back. I started a business because I believe in it so much. And in my heart of hearts I know that love trumps hate, in the end we can succumb to grief or let our grief move us to action.
So here’s the amazing thing… you CAN do something you CAN make a difference, you CAN make an impact for change. Every. Single. Day. Whether you’re pumping at work, siting in the car pool lane, or driving between OT appointments and swim class, you CAN still be the change you want to see in this world!It doesn’t have to be big grand gestures (eh hem, I know I say this a lot, but it’s so true). It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or even a lot of time. But it does take effort. It takes a mind shift. From thinking I have too much on my plate already, I want things to change but I can’t really change them, to understanding that every day you have the power to make a difference right where you are… if you want to.
And to be honest, I think you want to. I mean I haven’t met any parents who have said oh ya I totally want my kid to hate that kid and treat that kid like crap and when that kid does something my kid doesn’t like I totally want my kid to harbor bitterness and anger towards him. I mean maybe those parents are out there, but if they are I haven’t met them. And I think most of us want to raise kind kids, kids who forgive and choose love over hate, kids who are grateful and considerate, kids who choose understanding and compassion over judgment and stereotypes.
So if you’re with me on this let’s talk about it. Let’s start the dialogue. Let’s put away the reasons why not, let’s work through the doubts and the fears and let’s leap together to make a change for good, for kindness, for love, for understanding.So how do we start making an impact right where we are?
We start with what we say and what we do. We start by realizing that our words and our actions matter. They shape our habits and cultivate who we are in this world. They model to our children what we value and what we expect from them. Disclaimer… I don’t know why I always feel the need for one of these, but here goes. We ALL mess up, we ALL make mistakes, we ALL have days where we are the worst versions of our selves and act out of anger, hurt, stress, etc. I can’t tell you the number of times I have yelled at my little one out of stress and frustration over something that was so insignificant and meaningless and felt totally shitty and guilty and horrible after. But here’s the rub, even in those moments and those days we can make the choice to recognize it, apologize for it, seek grace and forgiveness for it. And that choice speaks volumes to who we are and who we choose to be.So we start by recognizing and living like we know and believe that our words and actions matter and make an impact, because they do. Y’all, people weren’t born with torches in their hands, people weren’t born carry hate signs, people weren’t born wearing swastikas, people weren’t born acting out of anger, hate, and bitterness. It’s a choice, it starts with one choice and then another and then another, each choice justifying itself and excusing itself to make the next choice that much easier to make until one finds themselves using a tiki torch to spew venom instead of to host an awesome summer bbq luau.
The beautiful part of it being a choice and a pattern of choices, is that we can shift the pattern in the other direction. We can make the other choice, the choice to understand and listen instead of judge and assume. The choice to forgive instead of harbor anger. The choice to love every person knowing that each and every person is valuable, important and was created and called for something incredible in this world (even if they look different than us). The choice to recognize that these choices, are what truly makes us super!We start making this shift in our lives every day. With how we talk about people, with how we talk to our children about people, with how we treat each other, with how we expect our children to treat others.
We ask our kids simple questions; “what kind thing did you do today?” Asking this simple question to my son every day has drastically changed our conversations. When I first started asking him, it was more of a conversation of what are kind and unkind actions and then turned into how he could identify and think of new kind actions and now it’s what he’s excited to share with me on our car ride home.
We talk to our kids (even if it makes us uncomfortable); talk about diversity, the differences between people (different color hair, skin, beliefs). Talk to them about people who are vulnerable or live differently (homelessness, foster care, in villages with little resources like water and food and education). Help kids see the bigger picture and help them learn that there are different cultures, places, people, animals and communities. The goal is understanding, curiosity, empathy and ultimately that kindness extends beyond the ones we love directly.
We do simple acts; hold the door open for someone else to walk through first, when you go grocery shopping, buy one thing to drop in the food bank donation, it can be a 79 cent can of green beans, it’s not about the amount, it’s about the intention and the thought. When you buy that new cute tee, take one from your closet and donate it. One day a month wear 2 different shoes instead of a matching pair and talk about how some families have no choice but to do this or go barefoot. Find ways that fit into your lifestyle.
When we disagree with that person on Instagram or Facebook, don’t judge them and condemn them, maybe we talk about it with someone close to us, why that offends us, why we disagree, what could be going on for that person or with us. We give people the grace we expect and desire for ourselves.
We educate ourselves on the importance of what’s going on in the world and communities around us.
Y’all it starts with us, it starts with understanding and recognizing our words and actions matter, and then guiding our little ones through the same process. The goal is our kids learn and see that kindness and empathy are a priority in our family and that they know and understand that and choose it.I’m not an expert, I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a researcher. I am just an overwhelmed mom who gets up and tries every day because I believe this with such a passion and fervor in my heart and gut.
I am just a woman who worked with homeless men, women and children and this dynamic of change every day for ten years and witnessed lives change in profound ways.
I am just a person who grew up seeing and experiencing what it was like when hate and pain and bitterness expresses itself in the worst possible way. I don’t know much, but I do know this… YOU can and do make a difference every single day. It’s just what kind of difference you want to make.
“The question is not whether we will be extremist. But what kind of extremist we will be? Will we be extremist for hate or for love? For preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?” -MLK
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