Forget the President

dsc_0064-2-smI promised myself I wouldn’t post anything political on my blog. And I won’t. But this US election season has me thinking a lot about human beings and how we fail over and over again to behave in ways that lead to greater wellbeing for everyone.

And the rhetoric is so focused on who will lead the country, that I feel like we’ve almost lost sight of the fact that the president is just one person. Is the president going to make everything right in the world? Not a chance, no matter who is in office.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote. Do vote. I sent my absentee ballot in a couple of weeks ago. It is important to choose the best leader possible.

But what I’m saying is that you and I have as much responsibility, and probably more power than the president, to create the world we’d like to live in. Who has the most influence over your days? Your friends, family, co-workers, boss, and teachers. Not the president. Collectively, we have far more power to do good than the leader of any country. We can make the difference between a world of hate and inequality, and one of peace and well-being.

So here is my five-step plan to better humanity…

  1. Be kind and polite. To everyone. Even (and perhaps especially) to people you don’t like. Raise the bar of behaviour—give up your seat on the bus, let that person out of the side street in heavy traffic, give a sympathetic smile to the woman whose baby is screaming in the checkout line. Remember that you have no idea what others are dealing with in their lives—that sullen and inattentive waitress you want to scream at might be going through a divorce, or caring for a dying parent. Make her life easier, not harder. Same goes for all your on-line interactions—just because they can’t see you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind and polite.
  2. Say thank-you. To your spouse. To your children. To the waitress at your favourite café. To the woman who cleans the toilets at work. To the bus driver. Everyone around you has the ability to make your life miserable, thank them for, instead, making it better.
  3. Be thankful. Saying it is one thing, feeling it is another. But the more you say thank-you, the more you will notice things to be thankful for. Embrace those things. Focus on them. That’s not to say you shouldn’t address problems when they arise, but don’t let them dominate you.
  4. Surprise the world with your love. Your friends and family expect you to love them. Strangers don’t. Surprise them. Provide a meal to a homeless person. Make toys to give to foster children. Help a refugee. Compliment a stranger’s children. Smile as you walk down the street. Practise random acts of kindness. Be the person you’d want to have as your best friend. And not just towards your best friend, but towards everyone. Yep. Everyone. You’re going to have to leave your racism, sexism, homophobia, and other –isms and -phobias behind.
  5. Right the wrongs whenever you can. Even little things make a difference. Pick up litter. Refuse to engage in the casual sexist and racist banter you hear every day. Call out people who engage in such banter—politely, of course (see step number 1). Pay attention to where the things you buy come from, and the social and environmental costs of them. Buy fair trade products when you can. If you have money, give some to charity. If you invest, invest in socially and environmentally responsible companies. Don’t be greedy. Give of yourself. Engage with your community, and become active in the issues it faces. Strive to make a positive difference.

So whatever happens in this year’s US presidential election, I’m going to be implementing my 5-step plan to better humanity.

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