The New Year had me thinking a lot about goals, values, ambitions, motivations, life, and how excited I was to wear my new fuzzy socks. With all the talk of “look how far you’ve come in a year” and “can you believe that was only 1 year ago” I found myself even more reflective and nearly bubbling over with blog ideas – two of which involved writing about goals and values.
At my old job, we had a list of working norms – kind of like guiding values – and each day at our morning huddle, we would say what working norm we were focusing on that day. I loved that idea. I mean, obviously, in theory, you were living into every positive attribute every day you walked into the office, but how nice it was to really put your heart and soul behind one guiding value each week.
For this reason, I’ve decided to dedicate a new series of “Res” posts to my own kind of working norms – my own mini-resolutions. You don’t have to buy into any of these. You don’t have to make your own. But maybe at some point, it’ll make you think about what it would look like to radically change your life one week at a time.
Res 2: Stand Up For What is Right
I’ve always been pretty agreeable. My close friends and family might laugh at that sentiment. I say I’m pretty agreeable but I’m also the kind of person who has such an extreme distaste for Black Friday, that – in a collegiate marketing paper – I compared the shoppers to the stampede that killed Mufasa in The Lion King.
Okay, so I can have some pretty big opinions. But my open opinions are about things like how to pronounce crayon, whether it’s called soda or pop, or how unfrosted Poptarts are actually really, really good.
When I started The Smile Project, I always aimed to stay neutral. I wouldn’t bring up anything that was divisive or controversial. After all, Happiness is supposed to be a universal language. I wanted as few barriers to entry as possible.
As The Smile Project grew, however, I realized I had built a platform on kindness, respect, and mutual understanding – something that should be nonnegotiable despite your beliefs.
As we all prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, I think about the importance of a single voice.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Malala Yousafzai:
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
We don’t all have to Martin Luther King Jr’s and Malalas. Most of us will never be given that national stage. However, we can stand up for the oppressed, speak for those who are losing their voice or having their rights taken away from us, and defend the most vulnerable in our world.
We can be better. We have to be better.
I was only sent to the Principal’s office once. I was on the elementary school bus when one of the older kids began picking on one of the younger kids who had a learning disability. Instantly angered, I did what any punky second grader would do. I pulled the big kids hair and told him to stop.
As things go in these scenarios, the bus driver noticed me, wrote me up, and the next day this spunky (yet adorable, nerdy, straight A-student) second grader was sitting in the Principals Office pleading her case.
Because they were the administration, they had to tell me to report these things to the bus driver instead of rashly making decisions. After all, what I had done was technically wrong and two wrongs never make a right.
I’d like now to say something along the lines of put me on that bus again, and I’d do it every single time, but the truth is: I wouldn’t.
Because hair-pulling and name calling is what you do when you’re in second grade and don’t know how to use your own voice to stand up for injustice.
When you’re 22 though, you see things a little more clearly. The bully was not worth my time or my energy. If I could go back to that day, I would ignore him completely. I would walk to the seat with the younger student and sit down, opening conversation and putting both a physical and mental barrier between the bully and the younger boy.
The time to stand up for what is right is always now. The way to do it is with grace and tact. You need not stoop to the level of the oppressor. You need not defend yourself to those who build themselves up by tearing others down.
We can all be activists in our own right. Stand up for what you believe in. Back your voice with education and statistics. Fight for the light that this world needs. You are what this world needs.
Resolution #2: Stand Up For What Is Right
It can be scary to be a voice of kindness when all we are seeing is anger and hatred. To retaliate with that same ugliness can be tempting. It sure is easier. But you need to be bigger than that.
It can be incredibly difficult to put yourself out there. To offer a bold opinion in a divisive world where people from all sides and viewpoints are quick to point out your flaws and tear you down. Stand tall. Don’t apologize for your voice. Do your research. Try to understand the other side. Approach everyone with respect until they give you a reason not to and once they give you that reason not to, walk away. The second you walk away from a toxic, harmful, hate-filled relationship is the second that you win.
Be the voice of logic. Be the voice of kindness. Be the voice of love. But most importantly, be the voice of true, mature, respectful, genuine goodness.