Ask yourself this question: on average, how often do you think of the effects your actions will have on others?

Of course, from an early age, we are all told to respect others’ feelings, to treat others they way we want to be treated–yet, for most of us, our actions and responses are still mainly focused on self interest. We act in ways which benefit us, yet decry others when they act in similar manners. The main problem is most have no concept of what it would be like to be any other person.

Understanding is key to acceptance. Today’s job is this: the next time someone acts in a way you don’t  understand–perhaps in a way which offends you–hold against your initial reaction. Ask yourself: “Why are they doing this? What could their thoughts be? Could there be a reason for what they are doing?” Put yourself in their situation, their mindset, and try to understand them.

As a first step, it is the start of a new way of thinking: one of thinking of others, rather than oneself. It can change your attitudes, your presumptions, and most of all your responses to others. There is nothing more others can ask of you.

It’s a start.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

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There is no doubt that once, in the span of your life, you have made a mistake. Mistakes are inevitable, for the  most part, but they can still cause others pain. Most of the time, it is not the mistake itself that causes ill will, but the resentment associated. And, while the tangible effects of a mistake fade, the resentment may yet remain.

Hopefully, you have forgiven someone for a mistake they perpetrated against you. Today, your task is a bit harder. Today, ask someone who you have hurt in some way for forgiveness. Perhaps, if resentment remains, they will not respond, but a first step towards rectification must be taken. Today, I’m counting on you to take it.

Don’t be nervous. Everyone has, at some point, needed forgiveness. Today you take the first step in achieving yours.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

Day 4–The Storm

May 29, 2009

Emotions are the fuels that drive us, the incentives for almost everything we do. Emotion is powerful and hard to control, yet it is what gives both flavor and purpose to life itself. Emotion, then, can both enhance or detract from a life. Sometimes, however, it has no potential but that to destroy.

Anger blinds. Of all the emotions, it has the most power over us, and it is the most unyeilding and unreasonable of them all. There is no way to stop yourself from ever becoming angry–and indeed, there should not be–but you can and should do your best to keep anger from damaging you or those around you.

Today’s lesson is this: never make a move in anger. Even if you believe yourself to have every right, every reason to act in some way, do not take action when under the influence of anger: it is antithetical of reason. Wait until calm before approaching the situation. Perhaps you can stop yourself from treating others in a way you will eventually regret.

So, today, do two things. Think of a time you acted in anger, and what, if anything, you regret doing. Then, make a vow to yourself to never allow anger to control you, even for a second. With this, you’re one day further to a kinder world.

See you tomorrow. Until  then, don’t rest. Keep up your kindness. Because it’s a big world out there, and it’s got the inertia. All we have is persistence. We can’t afford to stop.

Day 3–Action

May 29, 2009

Insignificance is an ugly word.

The word is bantered about quite frequently, in our society. Our world is filled with more than six billion people—to many, the quantity defies comprehension. There is little significance attached to one being in a throng of billions. What action can one person take that affects the world?

Perhaps one person is insignificant. Perhaps a hundred people are insignificant. But the world lives and breathes because of the billions of small actions, whose sum makes up the entire world. So many small actions together must be significant. And a movement must always start small.

Today, find something you’re passionate about. Do something to alert others about the same issue. Write a letter to a congressman, make posters—find some way to get word out. You don’t have to start a crusade: all you need to do is make sure your opinion has made an impact on someone.

And that’s a start for today.

See you tomorrow.

Mistakes are a fact of life. Some mistakes are easily fixed, and clear up quickly. Others never seem to go away. The hardest mistake to fix is one made against someone else. It’s not always easy to make amends to someone who you’ve wronged, especially if they’re upset. In the end, the hurt feelings caused by wronging another can last far longer than the mistake itself.

Resentment grows over time. Small feelings of anger or embaresment turn into large ones. Avoiding atonement for one’s mistakes at first makes it harder later. Additionally, as time goes on, the person wronged only feels more of a victim. This cycle must be broken.

Today, forgive someone who has wronged you. Recognize that apologizing is one of the hardest things a person can do. Internally, cease blaming. Externeally, tell the person you forgive them. It’s not an easy task, but it’s an important one. Everyone can make a mistake–it’s our task to ensure everyone can also be forgiven.

See you tomorrow. We’re just getting started.

Optimism is not naive.

There is a sense, in our society, that those who are too trusting or too kind will never be vindicated. Assuming the best in people, many assert, only leads to them taking advantage of you.  Why even bother?

It’s assertions like these that make our society less livable.

Assuming the worst in people feels far safer. In a sense, you’ve protected yourself from any surprises. Yet, always fearing the worst case is not a way to live, or a way to build a community. By assuming the worst, you will always be bourn out, because you never give someone the opportunity to prove you wrong. An optimist may be seldom rewarded, but a pessimist will never be.

So, today’s job is: assume the best from people. Don’t jump to negative conclusions. Give people the chance to prove their decency. Maybe you’ll be disappointed ninety percent of the time, but that ten percent will be worth it.

See you tomorrow. We’ve got work to do.

Day 0–A Manifesto

May 25, 2009

The world is in trouble.

Regardless of what newspaper you read, there is an inevitability to what you’ll find. The world is not a nice place. Perhaps we’re better off than ever before, or perhaps we’ve fallen back on old ways. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is where we are (which is far from perfection), and where we’re going. And in that respect, we have a ways to go.
How does one make the world a better place? How can one make the world a better place? There are such insurmountable issues, such enormous problems, it’s easy to look at the list and become discouraged. How does one combat racism? What can one do about hate? Is it possible to defeat greed? What can you, as an individual, do against the weight of a thousand thousand little cruelties, perpetrated against a thousand thousand people?

The answer is: read this blog.

To change the world, first you must change yourself. Every day, you can do something to make the world a slightly better place. Every day, you can change one small thing for the better. It may seem insignificant, it may seem futile, but the way to true change is not from the top down, it’s from the bottom up. For, what is the world, if not the sum of a billion billion small actions?

This blog is called One Way a Day. Every day, there will be one small change to make. Every day, I’m counting on you to make them. It may be frustrating the first time, when your kindness is met with scorn. It may be frustrating the fiftieth time. But, by meeting scorn with kindness, hate with acceptance, and irrationality with reason, we can create a fairer, more accepting society.

One. Day. At. A. Time.

See you tomorrow.