A few mornings ago, I woke up feeling torn in a thousand pieces as if I had somehow been shoved through a shredding machine, a feeling I suspect many Americans might be experiencing days before this presidential election.
Confused, frayed, perplexed – I am uncertain about the future and at a complete loss for words.
It’s a time in history when, everywhere we turn, front-page headlines bleed bad news. Too much hatred and angst, the spewing of bad karma – everything going viral and haywire before you can delete or declare to Facebook friends you are on hiatus until after the election.
Tweets that used to say, “Good morning, Monday” and carrying scenic attachments of sunrises, fields of flowers and full moons are now trumped by politically charged verse and venom. Crazy-glued to our televisions, we find it hard to look away – much in the same fashion one stares involuntarily at a gruesome accident on the roadside.
I notice it impacting my words and writing. My heart beats faster, my pencil is dulled, I catch myself whispering stanzas of four-lettered profanities and even carving them into the margins of first and second essay drafts. Sentence after sentence, my (own) storylines feel small, stunted, insignificant by comparison to all that’s at stake.
Thankfully, something else is happening, too. There’s a movement in the air, maybe even a quiet revolt to change the tide, undo this feeling of powerlessness permeating our walls and worlds. I’ve noticed it in the grocery store aisles, at the bank, even at four-way stops where everyone usually rushes to claim their right of way. People everywhere yearning for the return of respect and human decency.
Random acts of kindness are once again in vogue, the rule rather than the exception.
A dear friend of mine, Karin Larka, was recently at Walgreens. At the checkout counter, an item came up without the sale price that a staffer had promised she would receive. When she called attention to the amount, it turned out the sale was exclusive to Walgreens cardholders, which she was not.
The man behind her, a mere stranger, said, “May I?” as he moved to the counter and typed his Walgreens card number into the chip device holding her credit card. The sale price came up and she thanked the man for his “random act” of kindness. But it didn’t stop there.
She asked him for the name of his favorite charity, because she was so taken by his generosity of spirit, she decided to make a donation on his behalf. As a result, Valley Children’s Hospital will receive a check and she is tripling the amount because the hospital was there 44 years ago and had saved the life of her 3-month-old premature baby boy.
The exponential power of humankind.
A few weeks ago I walked into See’s Candy to buy my mother a box of chocolates. While browsing the shelves, another family buying Halloween candies accidentally piled their items onto my one-pound box of soft chews. When the sales clerk tallied my purchase, the total was more than I expected. The family standing behind me quickly chimed in, apologizing profusely that it was their candy, too.
While the cashier began reversing the transaction, I opted to pay the entire bill, which was hardly significant, really just a few dollars. But seeing their faces was worth every penny. A simple gesture had made their day.
Moments like these are contagious and have unique viral properties all their own. I know they sound small in comparison to escalating crime rates and national security, but it’s actions like these that breed good will toward men, women and children.
Inside my nightstand rests an anthem of hope clipped from an ancient magazine I stashed many years ago. It was a time when all my tomorrows were dimmed in the direction of darkness. Something tells me it’s time to take it out again, read its words out loud:
To hope, to the future
To the old guard, to the new guard
To possibility, to perseverance
To collaboration, to communication
To progress, to clean
To green, to quiet
To peace, to yes
To fearlessness, to selflessness
To freedom, to responsibility
To family, to respect
To education, to invention
To reinvention, to moving forward
To letting go, to holding on
To saving, to giving
To laughing, to relaxing
To the individual, to the whole
To leadership, to legacies
To that which matters most.
No matter what side of the aisle you stand, take a stand and vote. But don’t stop there. Let your actions speak louder than words. Make a difference in so many small random ways that regardless of the election outcome, we change our corner of the world.
Armen D. Bacon of Fresno is a writer and co-author of “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship” and a collection of essays titled “My Name is Armen.” Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org, @ArmenBacon.