By Albert J. Rizzi, M.Ed.
As we enter another holiday season, the optimist in me wants to be filled with the magic, hope, and inspiration that usually comes this time of year.
However, I must admit to being torn.
The specter of COVID hanging like a cloud over us and the divisiveness around how to handle it, coupled with political storms brewing about, draws the pragmatist out of me now more than ever. I feel the need to circle the wagons and insulate myself from the looming, ever-present danger.
All one needs to do is look at the numerous headlines, political extremism, and attempts of anti-constitutional power grabs or the COVID and anti-vaccine sentiments that are so infectiously spreading across our country. Today, school board members are having their lives threatened regularly, to say nothing about the racism, sexism, and ableism that is ever-pervasive and seemingly normalized because of factors beyond my comprehension or control.
I am damned sure I am not alone in feeling disheartened and disappointed by the onslaught of horrible things happening in society today. Given how ugly the world has become over the last few years, there has been, and continues to be, a constant collective wondering of whether trying to change the world for the better is worth the physical and emotional investment at all.
Why should I risk putting myself out there if only to have an offer of friendship or a gesture of kindness potentially slapped away because someone disagrees with my views on the vaccine, my politics, or my sexual orientation? Why should I endure their ignorance or insensitivity about how I live my life as a person who happens to be blind or someone who happens to be a member of the LGBT community?
Why should I take the time to consider investing my heart and energy into other people’s opinions instead of ignoring them in order to avoid the inevitable abuse and condemnation from people with differing views and thoughts?
What keeps me focused on not going down that rabbit hole of the narrow-mindedness that consumes our nation has more to do with my unwavering belief and faith in humanity. “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl”. Yet, I wish and pray for the one good apple that makes the whole bunch better; sadly, that crop has not been harvested yet. Trying to perform a kindness or do unto others as you would have them do to you has become more and more difficult to live by.
Yet I say to you, do it anyway.
I have been thinking about kindness and offering kindness to anyone and everyone I meet, and I have come to this conclusion: it’s the right thing to do.
Now, more than ever before it is especially needed. To quote the famous Burt Bacharach and Hal David song,
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone…”
When we do a kindness for someone, we express love, and it makes the world a better place not only for the person on the receiving end but for the giver as well. I spoke with friend, colleague, and mentor, Mike Paciello, about this. We agreed that trust and love, above all else, are what we all need to heal our nation, our world, and ourselves. The good karma that gets generated from a simple act of kindness pays dividends, even if it goes unappreciated or even acknowledged.
As Paralympian swimmer Mallory Weggemann explained during last month’s AccessAbility Works podcast interview, in situations when facing adversity, ignorance, discord, and the like, the best thing we can do is handle each situation with dignity and grace. To me, grace is defined as extending courtesy, kindness, and clemency. You can listen to her sage words by accessing the podcast here.
I was moved to tears by Mallory’s book, Limitless: The Power of Hope and Resilience to Overcome Circumstances. Time and again, she is the personification of all the things that I aspire to be. Even though we just met, she is one of my heroes. It’s not because of the gold medals and world records that she possesses. I truly have respect for Mallory because of how she engages with adversity in her life and the grace that she constantly extends to others. Frankly, I don’t know how she does it.
Kindness and grace are scarce commodities in our global society. That is the exact reason why you and I need to double our efforts. It has nothing to do with religion or “the holiday spirit”, though it is likely the exact thing that Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, or the Wiccan Triple Goddess might do.
So, even though it is especially difficult during these tumultuous times, I will engage. I will be kind and gracious. I invite you to join me. Knowing the flawed person that I am, it will be hard but as JFK famously said, we do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”
There are many ways to show this kindness and grace. During get-togethers, if there is someone with whom you disagree on the issues of the day, try going up to them and saying something like, “I know that we disagree on a lot of things. Even though we do, I admire (like, respect, appreciate) you because (insert that quality or accomplishment).” That person might throw shade and ‘dis’ you in some way, and that is why it might be hard for you to turn that proverbial cheek. However, that person might, because of your kindness, find their small heart growing three sizes that day, just like the Dr, Seuss’ character, the Grinch. All because you took a risk, and stood your ground on being kind, the world became a better place if even for a moment.
Another thing that you might do is a random act of kindness. If you’re in the drive-thru of your favorite coffee place or eatery, anonymously buy the order for the person behind you in line. They might respond with, “Look I got my order for free! Yay for me!” and selfishly and gluttonously gobble up their food and drink without a second thought. On the other hand, they might decide to do the same thing in turn and purchase the food and drink for the person behind them. Soon there might be an extended chain of goodwill that occurred for scores of people because you started it. How nice is that to contemplate or hope for?!
And speaking of random acts of kindness, I ask that you consider this: If and when you make purchases for the holidays, or anytime throughout the year for that matter, consider making your purchases through the Amazon Smile program. My Blind Spot has benefitted from this small act of kindness for years and would deeply appreciate your random act of kindness by choosing My Blind Spot as your nonprofit of choice when shopping on Amazon. Shopping and supporting our mission for a more inclusive world is as easy as visiting this link: smile.amazon.com. After logging in, go to your accounts and lists, and designate My Blind Spot as your preferred charity or nonprofit to ensure that a portion of any and all purchases you make all year round will go to My Blind Spot! You’ll be performing an act of kindness helping a good cause for something that you were going to do anyway! If you decide a random act of kindness is just too random, then please feel free to make a tax-deductible donation to our mission and vision by going to https://myblindspot.org/donate/. I personally appreciate your generosity as will many others we serve all around the world.
Donation or not, thanks for all that you do for My Blind Spot. Whether you read my blogs, listen to the AccessAbility Works podcast, or enjoy our social media posts, I appreciate the time and attention that you gift to us as we work toward a world of authentic inclusion and digital equity for all.
I know times are hard and it seems there are more instances of ugliness to the world each day, and this may seem cliché but, just the same, let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, let it begin with you and eventually, hopefully, it will be given back to us. As Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, everyone.”