When I was a child, my parents taught me lessons on how to be a good person. They taught me that smiles were infectious, a kind word can make someone’s day, and to be an all-around kind-hearted person.
Using those lessons, I’ve stood up for others I saw being bullied and belittled. I’ve offered an encouraging word when I knew they were struggling with something.
I’m disappointed that society isn’t more polite. I’ve had doors slammed in my face, people cut in front of me and give me dirty looks, and I’ve had a person, whom I’ve known many years, terminate their friendship with me because we didn’t agree on something.
Society, I fear, has lost its way.
We no longer try to meet and befriend new people. We don’t treat our common man with dignity and respect. We are no longer kind to others. We throw away long-term friendships and other relationships with people over a single disagreement, and we isolate ourselves away from any person who could conceivably have a difference of opinion.
We judge others based on their political affiliation, preferences, jobs, what car they drive, where they go to school, who they are friends with and what clothes they wear. I could fill an entire page with examples. We choose not to find commonalities with those we are around every day. We are pressured into not being an individual, but to conform to those who scream the loudest.
Let me shed some enlightenment.
We are not the same people, and that’s OK. I don’t have to agree with everything someone does to consider them a friend. People don’t have to agree with everything I do to be mine. We can have differences of opinion, talk about it like adults, and agree to disagree. It’s OK not to agree. We can be friends with people who are not exactly like us. It’s really OK, I promise.
How does society recover? It starts with each individual person.
Start showing people how great you can be. Hold a door for a stranger. Say kind words to someone passing by. Smile at someone because you have no idea what they’ve dealt with that day. Be kind to your waitress, your cashier, and your bank teller. Be considerate and let someone else go first. Instead of complaining that everything isn’t your way, take action to change things for the better by being the change you wish to see in others.
Seek out people who are not the same as you, you might end up learning something from them. Challenge yourself to hear someone else’s opinion. Sit across from someone, face-to-face, and talk. Listening to someone else’s point of view doesn’t mean you have to agree with them.
There are 318.9 million people in the United States. If the goal is a society that is more loving, more accepting, and an overall better place for everyone, then it has to start with each one of us.
You can make a difference by taking the first step to reach a hand out in friendship.
Jeanette Perry is a mass communication post-baccalaureate.