(Note to subscribers: My apologies for the rough draft that was inadvertently sent out earlier. Hopefully, this will make more sense.)
I’m just going to say it. There is no shortage of rude and thoughtless behavior in this world. Recently, a classmate of my eleven year old daughter handed out invitations to her birthday party at school. My daughter was not invited, but this did not stop the party host from asking my daughter to give an invitation to our neighbor on her behalf. My daughter was understandably incredulous. She said to me, “It’s one thing to not be invited to the birthday party of someone I thought was my friend– it’s another thing altogether for that person to ask me to help her hand out her invitations. That’s rude, right?”
Yes, that’s rude. Maybe even mean, depending on how much thought my daughter’s classmate put into her request. But considering the frequent poor behavior I have seen from some of the adults that I interact with on a regular basis, I am not surprised. This year, in my role as an executive board member of the PTA of my daughter’s school, I have found myself witness to many interactions in which it is obvious that the person speaking has either not thought about how their words or actions will affect the person they are speaking with, or worse, that they know exactly the impact their words or actions will have and choose to stay the course, regardless. Some people were merely clueless and appeared to have no malicious intent. Others were so sure they were “right” that they willingly threw everyone around them under the proverbial bus just to prove their point. Others still, were quite willing to look the other way in the face of decisions with ethical implications for dozens of families because their family would not be directly impacted.
I worry that people are becoming increasingly self-serving. There is a “What’s in it for me?” mentality that is casting a dark shadow over society, leaving me searching for pockets of hope, like my cat looks for patches of sunlight on the kitchen floor by which to warm himself.
Yesterday, I found one of those patches of sunlight. About five years ago, before I had even met her, my friend, “N,” received a kidney donation from a stranger- a living donor, named “A,” who saved her life. N has mentioned A to me several times – particularly to say how grateful she is to A for giving her the chance to watch her children grow up and to marvel at how selfless an act it was for A to donate her kidney to someone she didn’t even know. N and A have kept in touch through Facebook and when N found out that A was going to be in town this week, she asked A if she would be interested in meeting some of the friends that she is grateful to still have time with on this earth. Then, she asked me if I would be interested in meeting A along with some of her other friends at lunch. It was there that we got to hear the story of the transplant from A’s point of view.
A, 21 years old at the time, was sitting with her mother watching the news when she saw N on the screen making a plea for help. N was in her early 30’s, the mother of two small children. N’s husband, was serving overseas in the military. N needed a kidney- as soon as possible. When N’s blood type was mentioned, A turned to her mother and said, “I have that blood type. I could give this woman one of my kidneys.” A wrote down the phone number on the screen and called the next day. She said it was one of the easiest decisions she has ever made.
It’s hard to say what was more meaningful to me- to know that N wanted me to be one of the people that A got to meet, or to know that there are selfless people out there, like A, who hear a stranger’s plea for help and respond in the most courageous way.
So what does this have to do with my frustration with people who don’t think before they speak or with the people who look the other way because THEY will not be directly affected? None of us are perfect and it takes a very special 21-year old to make the decision that A made. It would be unrealistic to think that we will all operate at that that level of selflessness. Be we can look at how A put the need of a young mother above her own as an example of how we can all be a little more thoughtful and deliberate in our daily lives.
For example, before blasting someone else’s opinion in a self-righteous, ‘reply-to-all’ email, regardless of how right you believe yourself to be and no matter how strongly you feel that the person who expressed the dissenting opinion needs to be proved wrong, consider contacting only that person and asking them to explain their opinion in more depth and then share your concerns. Or, when given the opportunity to preemptively correct a situation that will likely cause dozens of families emotional distress, even if your family is unaffected, be thankful for the opportunity to spare the suffering of others.
By inviting me to meet A at lunch yesterday, N gave me a beautiful gift. I was reminded that we are all deeply connected and that we all have the ability to make each other’s lives better. If nothing else, we can strive to not make peoples’ lives worse by speaking or acting without first thinking of the consequences. Whether our acts of loving kindness are small or life saving, they all make a difference. They are all pockets of hope creating patches of sunlight on the kitchen floor.