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 21: Focus on the Good and Acknowledge the Bad
One Saturday, last May around noon, I was walking north on Broadway in the Upper West Side to meet some friends. I was wearing jeans and a plain black t-shirt. An old man with long white beard began staggering toward me with a sense of entitled purpose. Before I could move, he grabbed a hold of my waist and lifted his other hand and his eyes toward my chest grinning repulsively. I stepped back quickly and moved around him, saying “no…no” with a quiver in my voice.
The old man staggered away and I took a deep breath before turning from him and beginning my walk up the street. Not even a second later, a group of 3 old men with long white beards stopped me and asked if the initial man had grabbed me, to which I responded in the affirmative. The 3 old men apologized and even noted, “not all old men with long white beards are bad.” I smiled graciously and thanked them genuinely before continuing my trek to my friend’s apartment.
I thought about the two vastly different encounters during the remainder of my walk and thought about how kind the group of 3 had been after how disgusting the first man had been. I decided I wasn’t going to let the first man take up any more space in my mind. I wanted to think about the second group of men – the good group, my helpers.
One of my favorite quotes that seems to be getting more and more attention these days is by none other than Mr. Fred Rogers. The quote reads:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
I love this quote because every bit of it is true. Recently, the news has had a whole lot of “scary things” in it. I get push notifications on my phone from various news sites and it seems like every day I am seeing something I don’t want to read. It seems like there is so much bad and that can be wildly overwhelming.
And I want to look for the helpers. But I also want to take a moment to process... to grieve… to feel the injustice of a situation… to think for a spell and to let the story envelope your heart.
I never thought too much about the street incident. I had chosen to remember the three good Samaritans who stopped me immediately after and made sure I was okay. I wanted to focus so much on the good. I wanted to be positive in the worst way. But I never gave myself time to really think about what had happened. And that’s important. You owe yourself some reflection. But then you owe the world a little bit more.
I want to take that reflection and turn it into action. I want to take that horrible thing that happened to you, your community, your world and I want to make something beautiful out of it. I want to acknowledge the bad and understand that evil exists and then I want to focus on the good.
Resolution #21: Focus on the Good and Acknowledge the Bad
Nobody wants to think about evil. Nobody wants to talk about the things that are difficult or hard or taboo. But we have to. We need to look for the helpers but not before giving ourselves time to process the horror. There are undeniably terrible things happening across the globe right now. From London to Afghanistan to the Philippines to South Sudan to neighborhoods only a few blocks from my own in New York City, there are people in crisis. We need to understand these situations – even though it’s tough. We need to feel their pain – even though it’s heartbreaking. And then we need to look for the helpers.
Better yet, we need to be the helpers. We need to be the keepers of peace and the children of kindness. We need to promote acceptance and love and understanding and compassion. We need to let ourselves feel pain caused by violence so we can be the generation to work toward ending it.
Yes, it’s good to look for the helpers. But it’s even better to be a helper. Give yourself time to mourn. Give yourself space to feel. And then stand up. We need you. You are the goodness. And the world sure could use a little bit more of that.