Did you hear about the psychopaths uploading suicide instructions to YouTube Kids? It seems like the latest example of myriad ways in which people expose themselves to be absolutely horrible online. Yet, I still want to believe the preponderance of people are good.
I count myself very lucky not to have been harmed as a child by any such cretin. To restore my sanity as I read about horrific videos on various platforms (did you also read about Facebook moderators reviewing and removing violent content?), I am taking a moment to reflect on all the good people I encountered growing up in the pre-social media days:
- Mr. Green, the crossing guard who shepherded us elementary school kids across a busy intersection as we walked ourselves to school starting in kindergarten.
- Mrs. Miller, who let me play in her garden (her next-door neighbor wasn’t as thrilled to see me tromping around on the banks of the brook or daring to check out her fishpond).
- Dr. Cameron, the vet who cared for our family dogs, including Toby, a young golden retriever who succumbed to injuries after being hit by a car. I am blessed with a life-long love for dogs, who I believe make humans into better people.
- Bernie? (my memory my be failing here on his name), who owned the candy shop where I would go with small change in allowance money to buy candy, and if I saved, a Matchbox car. (Yes, I walked there by myself.)
Now, however idyllic that sounds, I wasn’t fully protected from monstrous behavior. In 5th grade, I had an obscene caller stalking me. I wasn’t allowed to answer the phone for a while after he said truly vile things to me. Still, I think the overall positive interactions with people offset that nastiness.
As we make our way through our days, online and offline in the real world, we have opportunities to be nice to others and hopefully offset some of the negativity and horrors out there. We might not be able to shut down the bad, but we can be the good.
OK, I confess I recently strayed from this advice. On a recent overcast day with rainstorms in the forecast, I stepped outside to walk our big hound. In front of each house, lay plastic bags with papers and rocks. Some were in the street, others in yards and driveways. The paper contained a flyer for a roofing business and the bags also contained manufactured pebbles, rocks and big glass beads. Marketing materials do not need to equate to litter. I called the business to complain that the bags they littered all over our neighborhood could very well clog our storm drains and this area is prone to severe flooding. The lady answering the phone didn’t appreciate the complaint, and I failed as a person by calling her company a bunch of a******s. Having experienced horrible flooding and being astounded by the amount of garbage they dumbed in the neighborhood, I do not take back my annoyance. I just wished I chose a better way of expressing it.
So, I will return to following my own advice. Think of small ways you can be that better person.
- Find yourself typing out a mean response to a stranger in the comments on a news story? Don’t bother.
- Getting annoyed in traffic at someone for making a seemingly erratic move? Slow down and check to see if they were avoiding a person, a stalled vehicle or some object in the road. Think about waving them in.
- If you still shop in stores rather than online, make small talk with other shoppers and the cashier. Your errand will become a far more pleasant outing.
- Be nice to little kids, including loud ones running around like crazy in a restaurant or store.
I might not ever grow up to be as nice as Mr. Green was in guiding other people, but I can still keep trying. Be that person.