Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. ~Henry James
Every year, I hear it. Complaints that ‘this season’ has lost its meaning. That we’ve gotten away from the true spirit of Christmas. Blah blah blah. I wonder when that started? “You know, Jehoshaphat, when I was a boy, all I wanted for Christmas was to sleep in the barn with the sows instead of on a rock in an open field…” circa 1001. Who knows. Alls I know for sure is: for working-class on up the pecuniary ladder in the United States today, every day is Christmas (thanks, Amazon!) and every day, you’re gonna run into a plethora of Scrooges.
Considering the somewhat deleterious effects of organized religion in general, perhaps it’s not the end of the world that ‘Christmas’ has lost connection with its non-secular roots a bit. In fact, let’s hold that judgment in abeyance for a moment and focus on the real problem we as a society face at both wintery holiday times and year-round. That problem, of course, is the American culture of unbridled assholery.
Sure. Not too many of us sit around gently-lit candles, hold hands as a family, and quietly commune with Baby Jesus. But is that really the problem? Seems to me the problem is Things Drivers Say and Do, how supposedly-civilized people treat retail workers, and when we suddenly decide to slow our roll when it comes time to tip. Why are we all such assholes these days?
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Maybe it’s because we’re genuinely terrified our species is destined to become irrelevant on this planet in the foreseeable future. (I’ll admit, that one gets me e’ry time.) Perhaps it’s because we’re living in a time of one major social upheaval after another, and the frictional effect of some groups celebrating this while other groups rage against this is causing a kind of social tectonic eruption, and we just can’t bring ourselves to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ under such circumstances. Or maybe we’re all just dog-ass tired from working for a living. Who knows. Regardless, do any of these things truly justify us being complete and total jerkoholics?
Joy is a sign of generosity. When you are full of joy, you move faster and you want to go about doing good to everyone. ~Mother Teresa
Look. I’m not even trying to pull a ‘back in my day’ on anyone, because I’m sure a-holes have been around since the dawn of time. In fact, I’m 99.999% sure I used to be one (and still can be, no doubt). I’m just saying: what’s up with the total and complete lack of basic human kindness, y’all? Do we really think we become an invincible god every time we get behind the wheel, or do we just act like it? (My vote goes to option A for everyone under 25, and to option A for Everyone because have you seen Everyone on the road lately?!?) Do we really think that immediately after spending $80 on a meal or $60 on a massage is the time to start pinching pennies? Is that extra $5-10 tip truly going to be the thing that puts us in the poor house? (And don’t even get me started on the shitty tips we leave publically-cheerful-but-privately-miserable migrant workers at our zillion-dollar-a-night hotels. Like, “I already spent $1,200 on the room for the week. I don’t need to leave a $20 tip on top of it; that’s just a rip-off! Nooooo, gurrah-see-us!”) Do we really think that the overworked, underpaid retail worker can change the prices on the store items, or that she’s put herself in our line of vision today just so she can have the pleasure of saying, “I’m sorry, sir, I can’t do that” ad nauseam until we throw all kinds of rage-fueled mouth farts, fiery gesticulations, and side-eye in her direction?
Our worth is determined by the good deeds we do, rather than by the fine emotions we feel. ~Elias L. Magoon
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we consumers treated those from whom we procure our consumptions with a modicum of, oh, I dunno, kindness, let’s say. You know, instead of being total dicks about everything all the time.
A smile that brings hope in the midst of gloom is as much service as heroic sacrifice. ~Indian master Meher Baba
Look. I’m probably a little further down the smiley spectrum than is reasonable for most people. I’m just too damn lucky to indulge in a bad attitude. I have a great career, enjoy good health, don’t suffer from clinical depression, do have amazing interpersonal relationships, am an uber-positive Buddhist, and a ridiculously joyful & happy romantic-pragmatist in general.
For example. The other day, I saw the light playing on a dangling necklace. The shadow it created struck me as achingly beautiful, and the joy it brought me to be able to witness that moment of great and gentle beauty almost made me weep with gratitude.
That’s probably not where most people live in their noodles, and I get that. But enough retail workers, Uber drivers, and servers have verbally expressed gratitude for what I’d categorize as general friendliness and basic human respect to know that these things are in short tangible supply and high spiritual demand.
In the realm of action, not every gesture must be grand. ~Jack Kornfield
So, this season, as we throw ourselves into the insane commercialized event known collectively as ‘the holidays,’ why not throw out some eye contact with friendly smiles, a few extra bucks to folks who bring us stuff we want and do things for us we don’t want to/can’t do for ourselves? How’s about a “Don’t worry about it!” and a grin, instead of an “I’m in a hurry!” and a grumble?
Yeah, yeah. I’m completely Pollyanna-ed out and this is all bullshit and your eyes hurt from rolling so hard. That’s fine. But if you’re gonna roll your eyes at this public plea to please be nice, you’re gonna have to roll your eyes at a certain holy book, too, ’cause ‘member what Proverbs 15:30 said: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart.” Corinthians 9:6-8 reminds us that “God loves a cheerful giver.” And, oh yeah, let’s not forget Ephesians 4:2’s directive to “Be gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” All good ideas, even if you’re a Pastafarian whose idea of religion is the deity of the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
In other words, let’s all practice the religio-secularist tenant of non-assholery–this season ’round the lighted tree, and all year ’round our lighted cell phones, while ordering Impossible Whoppers at BK, buying Celebration Roasts at Kroger, or picking up our much-needed meds at Walgreens.
Amen and hallelujah.