Of course the answer to that question is almost always yes, otherwise, I wouldn’t need to ask. But really, am I crazy or are people seeming nicer these days? Are people seeming to come out of their narcissism or cynicism or what ever kind of -ism they find themselves, and notice the whole world around them? It seems that way to me, at least, in my little community, at least.
There was a time when I dreaded leaving my house. And not for the usual mom reasons. It wasn’t about someone will inevitably pee their pants and it will never be the child you brought a change of clothes for. Someone will start crying that they are hungry and refuse the only snack on your person and proceed to whine for 45 minutes straight. There will be someone who will loose a shoe, a dinosaur, a book, a hair bow, a quarter- something they just can’t live without and you’ll spend 30 minutes in Target searching for said item. It wasn’t about those things. Those come with the territory. It was about *them*. Those mean people who would make jokes about my family size. (*Ahem.* Not funny.) Those people who would act shocked and make rude comments about me within earshot or directly to me. Those people who seemed to always seemed to send my kids the message that they were unwanted in my community; that our family was the wrong kind of family. They could turn a simple run to the grocery store into a nightmare for me. I have six kids, which means I do not need the added stress in my life of meanies. Not that anyone with one kid , two kids, twelve kids, or no kids needs that kind of meanie stress.
But slowly things started to change. First, it was just a few people. The random person who would tell us we had a lovely family. The passing stranger who would comment how lucky my kids were to have so many siblings. The outrageously generous person who paid for our meal last year around Christmas because she remembered how tight things get with having kids around the holidays, particularly for large families. Suddenly there were small sparks of light out there. And going out and mingling with the community didn’t seem quite so bad anymore. (As an introvert with General Anxiety Disorder, it is always somewhat of a difficulty for me to be new places talking to new people. However, I am talking about this added stress that made it almost unbearable to be part of life outside our safe walls.)
We went from having the worst experience imaginable at one Waffle House where the waitress was downright rude and nasty to my family. To a few months later experiencing a wonderful brunch at Waffle House because people were just so kind. (By people, I mean the other customers. The waitresses were at least not rude this time.) One older gentleman even paid for every kid’s meal because he said they were so polite.
Something changed out there. And I don’t know what it was. Maybe the people in our community are just used to us. But I think people are just becoming nicer. I know that sounds completely naïve, but I really believe they just might be nicer. People are finally realizing what an impact they have on others, on complete strangers. They are finally seeing the power in their words and glances and interactions. And they see they can make the world better, happier. They have the power to change their world. They can help a stressed mom out by telling her they appreciate her efforts in raising the next generation. (Yes, I have been told that by a complete stranger. I was having a hard time getting my kids to behave like normal people, you know those days. So I felt like I was doing nothing but correcting them and correcting them and correcting them. It was getting old. Then someone acknowledged the work I was putting into getting my kids to sit in that waiting room. They told me that I was doing a good job in raising the next generation and my kids were lucky to have a mom who cared enough to help them.)
So what changed? Are there less jerks in the world? No. I highly doubt there are. But those neutral people, those people who minded their own business before, they are stepping up in a big way. Those little lights are burning bright out there. I now see more light than darkness. The darkness is still there, but people are kindling their fires. Why? I think social media has a little to do with it. We see articles and posts all the time about the downfalls of social media and how it is removing our ties to one another. And maybe that was true, but I think we’re starting to build them back. We see uplifting videos, get inspirational words send to us daily, and we kindle our fires, burn a little brighter, and pass the light on.
We look at the news at say “Where is God?!” But I see Him out there. I see Him in my neighbors. I see him in a teenager helping an elderly lady in the parking lot by returning her buggy (I’m Southern, I don’t know what the rest of y’all call those things) to the store. I see Him in a lady stopping to help another woman at the store when she knocked over a display of cheese. I see Him when I am greeted with a smile and not a scowl, when the words on the lips of others is not scorn, but encouragement. Those bright lights, they’re the sparks of life in us, the breath of God. We share the grace we receive. Sure, bad things happen all around the world. I have honestly had one of the absolutely worst years of my life- I’m not even kidding, it has been truly awful. I have no idea how I can even hold my head up with how beat down I have been this year. Crushed and then crushed and then crushed a little more. But then I’m offered some grace- some word of encouragement, some pleasant compliment, some hope- and I see God is with us. I see that God is with me. I see broken people offering hope and light, even when they need some themselves. That is self giving love. That is God.
So, keep it up people. Your words are powerful. Even when you can’t help in other ways, words are free, and words are healing. When words fail you, smiles and friendly looks will suffice. A small act of kindness to help you fellow man (or mama). I can see us changing and I like the change in us. “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”- St. Francis of Assissi