“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” – Isaac Asimov
I stumbled upon this quote on http://www.brainyquote.com recently and the statement could well describe my social media feed, especially since October. It seems that everyone is either an expert on a topic or a misguided fool. But here’s the problem – pick an issue, any issue, the what doesn’t matter. Now pick a side. I know people there. Now think of the opposite side of the issue. I know people there too. Smart people. Good people.
I am also related to a few of them. A fact that has caused me some degree of angst, particularly as the year approaches the holiday season. I would rather enjoy my turkey dinner than be caught in the middle of a debate on xyz. Therefore I’ve tried to remain social-media-neutral throughout it all, choosing to “like” pictures of puppies or children at play and instead of click-bait articles designed to impassionate and/or enrage.
I’ve chosen instead for my actions offline to speak louder than my posts. I’ve chosen to be kind and here are just a few ways you can too.
- Give, but give smart
There are as many charities out there, but unfortunately, not all are as giving to the causes they are expected to champion as others. It is important to do your homework to ensure that your hard-earned money has the best chance of reaching those intended. In the US, you can start your research at http://www.charitynavigator.org/
2. Volunteer your time
If your funds are as tight as mine are, especially at this time of year, you can give the gift of your time. Don’t know where to get started? Well, there are groups out there designed to match you with opportunities too, such as http://www.volunteermatch.org/. A quick search at the time of writing this connected me to over 390 opportunities in my area alone.
3. Go out to eat
If kindness and compassion go hand in hand, the best way to understand people who aren’t like you is to occasionally leave home or venture outside your normal social circle. While there are plenty of articles out there such as 10 ways to experience another culture when traveling abroad or 5 ways culture shock is good for you which touch on how to experience other cultures abroad, it can be just as beneficial to try something new closer to home. There is much to be learned about people who might not share your views or have had other life experiences simply by visiting another state/province, county, city, or neighborhood and sharing a meal.
4. Hold the door
I mean this both literally and figuratively. If you see a person in need, struggling to get by, stop and extend your hand. Give the tired your seat. Smile at a stranger. Say thank you and say it often. You don’t have to spend a dime, give up a weekend, or go out of your comfort zone in order to treat another person how you’d like to be treated.
5. Agree to disagree
This one can be the hardest. At a certain point, you will just have to accept that when given the same set of facts, there are those who arrive at a different conclusion. Stand firm if it is something you believe in, but agree to disagree, and repeat steps 1 – 4. Recognize no one’s journey through life is the same and no dinner quite complete without a couple of sides. Understanding this fundamental truth is the heart of compassion and the greatest, and sometimes the only, kindness you can offer.