Sunday, November 04, 2012

Taking My Own Advice ...

I had an exchange on Twitter with a pal on the east coast, not about Sandy but about Obama.

He's going to vote for Obama again, but grudgingly. He's disappointed.

So we tweeted about why.

And as the conversation continued from last night to this morning, I found myself writing things that were prompting the voice in my head to say, "And you should do the same, Beth."

He was talking about all the change Obama promised but how he failed to lead the country in a unified way.

It's hard to lead half of the country that doesn't want to follow you, I countered.

Obama should have rallied us, my Twitter pal insisted.

My response was, basically, rally yourself.


I know more folks are followers, not leaders, but instead of sitting back and being told what to do before doing anything, we can all do things to make a difference every day. Big things. Little things. Some may take longer than others to organize and execute but some can be done in an instant.

I thought about a guy I dated – seven years ago, impossibly – and this exchange that I wrote about then:

Later, as we were driving through his 'hood looking for an open meter, we noticed an older woman with a walker trying to navigate a snowy sidewalk slope in order to cross the street.

I looked over at G. "You should help her," I said.

"Should I?" he asked.

"Yes, you should get out and help her," I said. So he did. I watched at he called out to her and put his hands on her shoulders to steady her as she walked. Cars behind me, I circled the block and found him again. He hopped in.

"Thank you," I said.

"It didn't occur to me to do it until you suggested it," he said.

"It didn't occur to do it until you suggested it."

That sentiment boggles my mind.

There are people in the world who look right at someone who's clearly in need of assistance and it doesn't occur to them to help.

That's really sad.

The other day, I was out for a walk with my mom. The day before had been rainy. We came upon a woman who was struggling to dump a tarpful of leaves.

"Would you like some help?", I called to her. She didn't hear me. So mom chimed in, more loudly. "Would you like some help?"

"Oh, no," she said, looking up. "They're just heavy because they're wet."

And she returned to heaving the tarp up and over.

It still looked like she needed help, but she was determined to do it, and we had offered, so we continued on our way.

But the impulse was there.

I honestly forget sometimes that not everyone runs on the same mental program. I do expect that what I would do is what all people would do.

Which is not to pat myself on the back. I'm no saint. But when it comes to walking right by – or driving right by – someone who appears to need help, how can folks just not bother? To even offer, let alone help?

What's happening on the east coast is horrible on so many levels, but it warms my heart to read a story about runners in town for the marathon who organized to deliver supplies to residents of Staten Island instead. Or to have folks I know tell me that their weekend plans were to volunteer.

I used to volunteer once a week, a standing gig reading the news on the radio for those who were blind or unable to hold a newspaper. It ended when the station moved to a location further away that wasn't easily accessible for me and when I moved to a new home even further away that rendered volunteering for 90 minutes a bit silly in terms of the commuting that would be involved. There was always a waiting list to get on the air anyway.

But I don't volunteer on a regular basis anymore. And I miss it. I help out here and there, one-off moments when folks need a hand. But I need to get back to helping in a sustained way.

Which was my point to my Twitter pal. All of us can do things every day just because we see a need and we want to do something. We don't need to have the president tell us what to do. We don't need to sit back until someone announces that it's time to do X.

We can do things every day. We should do things every day. Random acts of kindness. Simple niceties. Holding the door for someone. Smiling at a stranger. Not because we've been told to do it but because it should be second nature to be kind to others.

There's so much acrimony swirling about. This election has frayed a lot of nerves. But the silver lining of Sandy, it seems, has been to remind us that we're all in this together, The Golden Rule writ large.

What other reason do we need?

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