Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What the World Needs Now

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

Take a moment to be thankful we do not live in Kenya or Iraq or Syria or Ukraine. Or any other country where you pause when leaving your house in the morning to briefly wonder if this is the day you may not return.
Those three RCMP officers who were gunned down in Moncton on June 4 may not have consciously paused when they were called out because what happened to them is rare in Canada. 
We don’t know how lucky we are. But is our luck running out?
Something unimaginable happens that pulls us together in communal shock and grief and tenderness, into a “new normal”, but after a while we drift back to the old normal. 
According to Albert Einstein, this is definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
It shouldn’t take a horrific and tragic event to make us behave better, to be nicer to each other, to pause in our bullying in school, at work and online. Communities become united by their pain for a few weeks, months if it’s the community where the event took place, but do we stay profoundly changed? Does that consideration for other human beings become the new normal?
If you’re watching or listening to the news these days, you’re thinking the answer is No.
The same tragic events keep happening so it’s time for a revolution: Change something. Just one thing. 
The easiest thing to change and the one thing each of us has absolute control over is our attitude so let’s start with our thoughts and the words coming out of our mouths.
If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. 
Complain less (even about the weather), say fewer negative things about one’s self (“I’m so stupid”), about others (“What a loser”), and about life (“Nothing ever turns out the way I want it to”). 
Too nice for you? That’s the problem. We’ve bought into the idea that it isn’t cool to be nice all the time. We like being sarcastic and ironic.
How’s that working for us? 
As communities, we need to stop focusing on our differences and begin celebrating what we share as human beings. As communities, we need to Gandhi-up and be the change we want to see in the world. We need to support each other all the time, not just in times of crisis. Then maybe those children, those parents, those adults who don’t have the right tools in their toolbox will find the support they need from the rest of us, their neighbours and friends, colleagues and employers. 
This means a revolutionary change from judgement to support. 
If we treated everyone all time the way we treat each other during a crisis, with concern and compassion and gentleness, every person, every child, every family would be stronger. Every community would be stronger. Everyone would be safer.
At the very least, certain problems might not escalate if we recognize them early, talk about them and provide help for the person who is in trouble.
Much more effective than declaring after the fact with great authority, “I always knew there was something wrong with that kid.”
If you do the same thing over and over again and nothing changes, do something different. Hate and fear and anger is getting us nowhere so why not try a little love (a.k.a. compassion, support, acceptance, non-judgement) for a truly new normal?
There’s a song that has been running through my head since I started thinking about this column so this ear worm is my gift to you and to the world:            
What the world needs now
Is love, sweet love,
It’s the only thing
There’s just too little of
It’s hard to insult someone when you’re humming that song. 
Let the revolution begin.

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