Merlin, we see so many negative stories in the news and social media is full of friends raving about this or that. Is there any hope for the future in your opinion?
“Let me cut to the chase on this one rather than letting you hang out there. Of course, there’s hope. Of course, there’s grace”, he said.
“But it’s not given to you. You have to take it or earn it. And you have to do it every day.
You have to decide it’s not acceptable for a child to die or not to receive adequate medical care because they’re poor or they don’t have the right medical coverage.
You have to decide it’s OK for people to have skin that’s a different color than yours. Some of that outlook is conditioned from your epigenetics so you have to work at it very, very hard.
You have to decide it’s OK for change to happen. Changes happened when you were young – what makes you think the young people today will settle for what you had? It’s their world now, and not yours.
You have to decide to go out and look at people, talk to them face to face rather than just checking a stupid box on social media. What’s the point of “liking” something on Facebook. Absolutely nothing happens when you do that. I’ve never understood that by the way,” he said shaking his head while staring at the floor.
He met my eyes again and I noticed they’d softened considerably. “It’s one of the hardest things you’ll do – to imagine a world where everything is equal and all people have the chance and opportunity to have a decent life.
There I go again. I sound like a broken record. Look, every generation must earn their own grace. And pass it along to their children so the world constantly improves.
I see pockets where people care. But I see them getting burned out by those who hate.
But here’s the thing. It doesn’t take doing something huge. It doesn’t take being center stage. It doesn’t take lots of money.
What it does take is making a decision every morning that you’re going to do your best to make a small improvement in somebody else’ life that day.
It could be a simple as smiling at somebody on the street instead of adopting a thousand yard stare.
It could be equally simple to be aware when you nailed your car horn in anger – and to take a deep breath and resolve to let that crazy person cut in front of you. What did it cost you in the long run? A few minutes at most – not to mention the elevated blood pressure and a spike in hormones.
It’s about telling the barista to give the next person behind you a free coffee and paying for it without telling them. Pay it forward. What did it cost you to brighten up somebody’s life? A cup of coffee. If you get a paid-forward cup – pay that forward too.
It’s about saying good morning and making eye contact when you get into the elevator. It’s about acknowledging somebody else as human in your space.
You’d help a sick child if she lived next door. What’s the difference between one next door and one who’s a continent away. Why help one and not the other? Help them both in some small way and encourage others to do the same. A child is a child – no matter where they live, the color of their skin or where their parents worship.
It’s about doing a hundred different small things under your control to make those around you happier. And doing it anonymously without any expectation of reward other than the thought you’d done something right and good.
That’s what you can do. Today. Now.”
He paused and looked thoughtfully at me as if anticipating my next question. I took a breath, opened my mouth but he cut me off.
“Will that change the political system? Probably not but that’s not under your direct control.
Your job for the moment is to make your immediate environment better.
And if enough of you do that. If enough of you share this thought, you’ll create a tiny pocket of grace.
And if enough tiny pockets of grace are created, you’ll have neighbourhoods of grace
And if enough neighbourhoods….
You get the idea. But here’s the most important thing of all. It can be done. But it won’t be done by me waving a spell or a wand. This is something you and your friends can do and after you do it, you’ll recognize the magic you’re creating.
In this case, my friend, I can only show you the way. This is your world and your reality right now.” The smile on his face reminded me of my grandmother’s smile as she encouraged us to go out and explore our world.
My reality? I asked. My writer’s antennae stood up with that word.
“Ah, but that’s a story for another day,” said Merlin with that damnable enigmatic smile of his. And then he disappeared right in front of my eyes. I had to take a very deep breath.
I decided I’d do one small thing a day.
Author note: When I wrote this, our entire family had just spent several days in the pediatric intensive care with a newborn child in our family. Note, my country has full medical insurance for this – even though in conversations with the surgeons, the equivalent cost was estimated to be well north of several million U.S. dollars for the over-a-month stay and multiple operations. I had several long days to think about this amidst the news of Facebook sharing the data of 50 million of us, and yes another mass-shooting or ten in the U.S. And more bombs dropped in the Middle East.
I was feeling quite negative and sad.
A few weeks later, I’m still thinking about this and trying to do something small every day. Sometimes it’s tough. (Like the idiot who drove through a red light yesterday when I was on an advanced green and nearly nailed my car.) But I took a deep breath and forgave her. I have no idea if she noticed her mistake but I didn’t let it bother me after I’d turned the corner. (Shook my head more than a few times before that but then I remembered I’d done this piece.)
I’ve bought some “pay it forward” coffees and did a few other smaller random acts that don’t need naming.
I feel better. The world hasn’t changed but maybe one of those coffees made somebody feel better and they …