Serving Country

What stops reasonable, good-hearted people from caring about injustice and social unrest?

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Justice

Disclaimer: I realize that candidly discussing what limits our ability to care about social justice risks offending someone. You may read my thoughts below and think I’m grossly misinformed and misguided. You may think I’m oversimplifying, missing key points or “missing the boat” completely. I understand that and will admit that this list is far from complete. It’s just a start. Feel free to send this around with comments about your thoughts or even how wrong you think I got it. Either way, let’s start talking about why we don’t care about each other. If I’ve gotten it wrong here (and I might have) I want you to correct me because it’s important that I get it right.

Since you decided to read this post, I’m going to make the assumption that you are a “reasonable, good-hearted” person. I don’t need to know your gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, racial nor economic status. All I need to know is that you are an intelligent human being capable of understanding social complexity and feeling compassion.

When discussing injustice there are two points of view – the oppressed minority and the privileged majority. You will likely find yourself moving between categories depending on the issue. For example, if the topic is racial injustice I’m in the oppressed minority but if it is sexual orientation discrimination then I’m in the privileged majority. No matter the issue, you probably prefer to discuss it with those in the same category as you. They likely share your opinions and around the same level of interest (i.e. is this consuming your world, a major issue to keep track of or simply a passing news story.) You many not want to discuss the issue at all. If you are in the oppressed majority, you have little choice but to take notice of topics that directly affect your life. But if you happen to be in the privileged majority, you have options – care a lot, care a little, don’t care at all. I’m hoping to define the factors that play into that decision?

What limits you from caring about injustice and social unrest when you’re in the privileged majority?

  • You may be embarrassed by your ignorance and unconscious bias. You may avoid topics about an oppressed minority because you’ve never cared enough to learn much about them. You’re afraid that you will accidently say the wrong thing or express an opinion that opens you up to critique and embarrassment. But here’s the thing, the oppressed minority doesn’t expect you to know much about them. Yes, they would like it if you knew more than stereotypes and characters’. They would also like it if you cared more, but it is definitely NOT an expectation. Your assumption that the oppressed minority expects you to know more about them comes from your own experience of being in the privileged majority. In the privileged majority, your experience is the standard that everyone has to learn. Minority groups don’t expect that. If you’re talking to a “reasonable, good-hearted” person in a minority group they would much rather engage with you in an ill-informed discussion that highlights your unconscious bias than to assume you don’t care about the impact injustice has on their life.
  • You don’t want to create conflict within yourself. You walk a delicate balance between privately supporting social justice and not getting so emotionally drawn in that you can’t fight the urge of making your belief more public. You know that publicly supporting the oppressed minority could create tension with the subtle and not so subtle bigots you like and love. They might be your family members or your church members (yes, unfortunately there are church-going bigots) or the people you work with. They don’t know what you support in private, but you are careful not to get too informed or too emotionally drawn in because it may mean that you have less tolerance to ignore the comments and views of the bigots around you. It may get harder to fully believe the reasons why injustice is really the victim’s fault.
  • You can’t decide which issues (and how much) you have mental energy for. You have significant problems of your own. Perhaps there is another category for which you are already an oppressed minority and you’re dealing with that struggle. Perhaps you have life circumstances (illness, grief, heart ache, failure, etc) that are consuming your every waking thought. Perhaps you just have a calendar terribly packed full of stressful work and family obligations. It’s probably too selfish to say publicly, but you have enough on your plate to add someone’s injustice. You have a hard enough time being grateful amidst your daily struggles, you don’t want to add any additional negative news nor tough conversations. You wished you cared more about injustice because clearly the oppressed minority is in a some sort of pain, but its easier to make a joke here or there and mostly ignore it. You don’t have the time to question whether it’s worth more time. You don’t have the time to debate your obligation to humanity or your faith. You don’t have the time to ask yourself what kind of life or legacy you want to leave. You’re a “reasonable, good hearted” person but you don’t have the time for justice.

What else should be on this list? What did I get wrong?

100 ways to love on the world

Posted on Updated on

Lovetree

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Whether you look forward to Valentine’s Day or despise it, I’m sure we can all agree that the world would benefit from more attention on love (and not just the romantic kind). Below is the list of 100 simple, loving, compassionate and gratitude-inspiring actions you can start checking off immediately.

Share the love!

100 Ways to Love on the World

  1. Send encouragement to someone caring for an aging parent.
  2. Donate coats and blankets you won’t use often.
  3. Get to know someone on a deeper level. Who did they love? What did they lose? What matters most to them?
  4. Enrich a livelihood. Donate to fund a microloan to help people in other parts of the world increase their earning potential.
  5. Marvel in the power of human expression. Buy tickets to music, dance and other live performances.
  6. Make an effort to use both sides of your paper.
  7. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  8. Plant something and watch it grow.
  9. Buy art that moves you and says things words can’t.
  10. Donate batteries to keep lifesaving appliances and smoke detectors working.
  11. Shop kindly. Choose to shop from companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
  12. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  13. Join a bone marrow registry.
  14. Raise your awareness of the employee working conditions at the companies you support.
  15. Help them live the dream and share their art. Dine at chef-owned restaurants.
  16. Tip generously.
  17. Advocate for a minimum living wage in your community.
  18. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  19. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  20. Learn the warning signs of suicide and take them seriously.
  21. Buy local produce.
  22. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  23. Adopt your next furry family member at a rescue or shelter.
  24. Plant a passion for service in a child’s heart.
  25. Keep the craft growing. Support new and independent artists.
  26. Choose books that broaden your view of the world.
  27. Shovel your neighbor’s walkway.
  28. Donate your old computer to a school.
  29. Offer your home repair skills to the elderly, ill or a military family.
  30. Learn CPR.
  31. Register to be an organ donor.
  32. Be a designated driver.
  33. Choose to shop at small businesses more often.
  34. Be bold enough to ask for help. Let someone else experience the gift of giving.
  35. Make a small change to conserve energy such as not pre-heating your oven or opening it while food cooks.
  36. Be a connector. Introduce two people with mutual interests or career pursuits.
  37. Multiply the impact of your donations by joining a giving circle.
  38. Share a meal with someone you love.
  39. Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
  40. Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
  41. Do online research about the distinction between charity and philanthropy.
  42. Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
  43. Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
  44. Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
  45. Register to vote or correct your voting information.
  46. Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
  47. Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
  48. Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
  49. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a world problem that seems hopeless.
  50. Give someone the freedom to live an unconventional life and still be accepted.
  51. Donate school supplies.
  52. Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
  53. Share a piece of wisdom that only comes with age.
  54. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  55. Create a disaster plan for your family.
  56. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  57. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  58. Drive cautiously and without distractions.
  59. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  60. Loan someone a book you love.
  61. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  62. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  63. Make a small change to conserve water such as not prewashing your dishes before using the dishwasher.
  64. Donate suitcases to foster children.
  65. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  66. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  67. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  68. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  69. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  70. Fight indifference and don’t look away. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  71. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  72. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a global or domestic cause you believe in.
  73. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  74. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  75. Make a small online donation to a global, domestic or community nonprofit with a mission you believe in.
  76. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  77. Listen carefully. People yearn to be heard and understood.
  78. Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
  79. Tell someone a joke.
  80. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  81. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  82. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  83. Pray for someone.
  84. Teach someone something. Anything.
  85. Get or stay committed to a recycling program
  86. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  87. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  88. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  89. Hug someone.
  90. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  91. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  92. Leave change in a candy machine.
  93. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  94. Thank a solider for their service.
  95. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  96. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  97. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  98. Keep your brain sharp and body strong. Serve on!
  99. Share this post and spread the love around.
  100. If you love them, tell them.

 

What am I missing?

Turn your thanks into giving. 70 ways to act on your gratitude.

Posted on Updated on

FallThanks

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I have to admit it; I’m one of those people that doesn’t wait until after Thanksgiving to start my holiday season. I’m singing carols and thinking about Christmas decorations already. I know it’s wrong since Thanksgiving hasn’t passed yet. I just can’t seem to help myself. I know that Thanksgiving deserves better.

Thanksgiving is a tremendous holiday marked with amazing food and thoughts of gratitude and community. If you want to put the spirit of Thanksgiving into action right now, below are 70 simple ways to get started. Why wait?

70 Ways to Live Your Gratitude

  1. Send encouragement to someone taking care of an aging parent.
  2. Rake your neighbor’s leaves.
  3. Donate coats and blankets you won’t use often.
  4. Register to be an organ donor.
  5. Be bold enough to ask for help. Let someone else experience the gift of giving.
  6. Get to know someone on a deeper level. Who did they love? What did they lose? What matters most to them?
  7. Be a connector. Introduce two people with mutual interests or career pursuits.
  8. Multiply the impact of your donations by joining a giving circle.
  9. Share this post to give others ideas on gratitude in action.
  10. Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
  11. Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
  12. Do online research about the distinction between charity and philanthropy.
  13. Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
  14. Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
  15. Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
  16. Register to vote or correct your voting information.
  17. Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
  18. Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
  19. Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
  20. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
  21. Cut a neighbor’s grass.
  22. Donate school supplies.
  23. Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
  24. Share a piece of wisdom that only comes with age.
  25. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  26. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  27. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  28. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  29. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  30. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  31. Loan someone a book you love.
  32. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  33. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  34. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  35. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  36. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  37. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  38. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  39. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  40. Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  41. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  42. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  43. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  44. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  45. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  46. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  47. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  48. Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
  49. Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
  50. Tell someone a joke.
  51. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  52. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  53. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  54. Pray for someone.
  55. Teach someone something. Anything.
  56. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  57. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  58. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  59. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  60. Hug someone.
  61. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  62. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  63. Leave change in a vending machine.
  64. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  65. Thank a solider for their service.
  66. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  67. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  68. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  69. Serve this service blog. Send via email or social media one idea to quickly put the spirit of service into action.
  70. If you love them, tell them.

This list has been building all year.

Which ones have you done already?

Which ones do you plan to try next?

Put your gratitude into action. Here’s 60 places to start.

Posted on Updated on

Seedsprout

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

-Cicero

I find it hard to rank virtues, but apparently Cicero did not. His quote above suggests that not only is gratitude the greatest virtue, but all others stem from it. Not a bad argument. If it is true, service is a stem of gratitude. Which makes sense as all acts of service (including the small ones) plant grateful seeds in the giver and the receiver.

Below you will find our updated list of quick and easy acts of service. At this pace, we will hit 100 by January 2015. Please, please, please continue to help by sending me your ideas.

60 small and powerful acts of service

  1. Serve this service blog. Send via email or social media one idea to quickly put the spirit of service into action.
  2. Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
  3. Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
  4. Do online research about the distinction between change and charity.
  5. Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
  6. Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
  7. Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
  8. Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
  9. Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
  10. Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
  11. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
  12. Cut a neighbor’s grass.
  13. Donate school supplies.
  14. Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
  15. Share a piece wisdom that only comes with age.
  16. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  17. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  18. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  19. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  20. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  21. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  22. Loan someone a book you love.
  23. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  24. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  25. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  26. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  27. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  28. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  29. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  30. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  31. Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  32. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  33. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  34. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  35. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  36. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  37. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  38. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  39. Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
  40. Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
  41. Tell someone a joke.
  42. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  43. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  44. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  45. Pray for someone.
  46. Teach someone something. Anything.
  47. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  48. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  49. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  50. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  51. Hug someone.
  52. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  53. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  54. Leave change in a vending machine.
  55. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  56. Thank a solider for their service.
  57. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  58. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  59. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  60. If you love them, tell them.

 What’s missing?

50 simple acts of service. Because we can do something.

Posted on Updated on

 

Waterdrops

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

This is a post I update every month. Many of the ideas come from your comments and suggestions.

But, I almost didn’t update the post this month. There has been so much conflict and tragedy in the world that I didn’t know if highlighting acts so small made light of the massive needs. Then I was reminded of the quote above. Every act of service matters.

I’m not suggesting that these quick ideas are where your efforts should stop. I’m just offering a place to start (or restart) your path to service. And some great ways to practice love in a world that desperately needs it.

50 simple acts of service

  1. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
  2. Cut a neighbors grass.
  3. Donate school supplies.
  4. Offer support to a grieving soul.
  5. Share a piece wisdom that only comes with age.
  6. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  7. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  8. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  9. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  10. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  11. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  12. Loan someone a book you love.
  13. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  14. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  15. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  16. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  17. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  18. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  19. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  20. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  21. Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  22. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  23. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  24. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  25. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  26. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  27. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  28. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  29. Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
  30. Thank a teacher for their service.
  31. Tell someone a joke.
  32. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  33. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  34. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  35. Pray for someone.
  36. Teach someone something. Anything.
  37. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  38. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  39. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  40. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  41. Hug someone.
  42. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  43. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  44. Leave change in a vending machine.
  45. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  46. Thank a solider for their service.
  47. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  48. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  49. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  50. If you love them, tell them.

 What are some others?

What’s in it for you? The case for caring – Part II.

Posted on Updated on

Newspapers

Last week, I wrote a post about caring. It was about the tracking of our interests in news stories and how that data reflects what we support or care about.  My point was that the simple and seemly insignificant act of caring about a social issue can actually help create tangible change. If you’d like to read that post you can find it here.

I realize now that I wrote these posts out of order. Though this post will be Part II on caring, it really should have been Part I. I should have started by talking about caring in a more personal way. Because broadly caring for others is core to serving, but more importantly it is core to being fulfilled and happy.

Here are the two things I should have pointed out last week:

Caring will teach you how to identify your feelings.

What are you feeling right now? Can you tell? If you’re like most of us, it is often hard to pinpoint exactly what we feel. Happy? Sad? Bored? I get pretty irritable when I’m hungry so I have to watch that closely. Knowing what we feel is the first step to managing our requests. We have to know what we feel if we hope to accurately express what we need. Sometimes what we need is food, but it can also be something more important like respect. We have to express what we need if we hope to have others honor that. And we have to know who will and won’t honor our needs if we want to have the right support team in our lives.

Caring about strangers in a news story helps you get familiar with your feelings. It helps remind you what sad feels like for you. It helps you pinpoint how anger builds for you. Are you familiar with your pang of hopelessness? What about your version of fear? Are you familiar with how you experience these things in your mind, in your body and in your heart? You can’t think through the answers to these questions. You have to feel them yourself. Caring about strangers gives you a chance to experience these feelings in a more controlled fashion. If it’s too much at first, turn the TV off or switch to another webpage. Try again later. But remember how it made you feel.

Caring for strangers is a low risk way to increase your tolerance for being vulnerable.

If you want to have strong, amazing and dynamic relationships you will need to get comfortable with vulnerability. Period. This is not negotiable no matter how much you may like feeling safe and being in control. Do you like the idea of having an awesome marriage, “to the grave” friendships or crazy-loving family bonds? If so, you will HAVE to get comfortable with the idea of caring deeply for people that can and will hurt you. You will have to get comfortable with letting the actions and choices of others have an impact on your emotional wellbeing. It isn’t easy. But it is through vulnerability that love and trust grow.

The good news is you can actually build up your tolerance to vulnerability every time you chose to care about anything or anyone you can’t control. Try this the next time you watch the news or read an article about human struggle. Don’t just take in the information analytically, pause and try to feel yourself caring for the individuals. Imagine if it was you or someone you love. Let their faces stay in your mind. Let them in fully knowing that you can’t fix things and you probably can’t help them. Let that vulnerability in. Then say a prayer for them and move on. Every time you do this, you will get more comfortable with accepting vulnerability. This will serve you when being vulnerable has higher more personal stakes. And it will make you more at ease when you need to choose between opening up or playing it safe.

Ok, this is my second case for caring and I hope it’s a strong one. I sincerely believe that caring broadly will serve you more than you might imagine. Trust me, it’s not a waste of your time.

Do you have a better case for caring?

I’m all ears.

Numbers don’t lie. The uncomfortable and inconvenient case for caring.

Posted on Updated on

Chicago

A day ago, a close friend posted two very different status updates. One post was about the astounding level of violence in the streets of Chicago last weekend. The other was about getting her day kicked-off with iced coffee from Starbucks. Same person. Same day. Which post do you think was most popular? If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit to enjoying the Starbucks post more. It was fun, light and relatable. I’d just left Starbucks too.

The Chicago post made me sad and left me feeling helpless. I scanned by it at first and only came back to it out of guilt. I knew what the story would say before I read it – 1. Random violence in poor neighborhood. 2. Things are getting worse. 3. Many dead. It was not in any way uplifting. And I read nothing that made me hope things would get better. Was that a waste of time? Was that a pointless drain on my positive outlook? I say no, and here’s why.

The case for caring.

Media outlets, politicians and marketers have become increasingly sophisticated at noticing what we care about and then feeding it back to us (again and again). For the purpose of this post when I say “we” I mean the vast middle class that everyone hears so much about during election season. They notice that we care about celebrity stories. We care about feel-good rescue efforts. We care about the untimely deaths of people that are supposed to live in safe areas and aren’t supposed to die young. We care about strong beliefs and the showmanship of political fights. We definitely care about consumer products (hence the Starbucks post). And you better believe we care about anything that involves winning big from sports to business.

So that’s what we do care about. What’s something we don’t care about?

We don’t care about people dying in poor drug-infested neighborhoods. I won’t pretend that race isn’t a factor too, but that’s a different post for a different day. The urban death toll story has been told a million times so in many ways we are desensitized to it. And we find it hard to relate to the victims. They may have been involved in committing crimes. They may just be poor which means they have yet to “boot strap” their way to more safety and success. This implies that being poor is mostly their own fault and clearly not how we would be living if in their shoes.  Again, we can’t relate nor are we trying to. Yes we feel bad, but no we don’t want to read stories about it. No, we don’t want to click on that link about young people dying in senseless ways on a weekend we spent celebrating and eating hot dogs. It is an emotional drain to care and our caring doesn’t seem to help anything.

They know what we care about.

People in power (within business, media, and politics) spend hours tracking and analyzing the numerical data on what we care about. They know what we click on and what we don’t. They closely track what we tweet on and post on. They know if we share a link or simply “Like” it. They even know if we stayed on the page long enough to have actually read the article or if we quickly left. They may know if we ran any follow up searches on the topic. They know if more people than normal are sending emails with the word “Chicago” in it. Thanks to Google Analytics, I’ll know if this ends up being my most unpopular post yet.

I realize we can’t pay attention and care about every issue. What’s happening in Chicago is just an example of what mass indifference looks like and how it spreads. It perfectly illustrates how a holiday massacre can become just a minor national story. It isn’t my intention to imply that urban violence deserves more focus from you than a service area you may care more about. My main point here is that caring is tracked closely and caring makes a difference. Whether or not people care about an issue has a dramatic effect on the resources and public attention given to finding a solution. And our small acts that demonstrate we care about a topic (reading and sharing articles, liking posts, and engaging in thoughtful dialogue) matter. They matter a lot.

It’s a struggle to care. As the title says, it is often uncomfortable and sometimes inconvenient. But every little bit counts. Have you closed your emotional doors to the plight of strangers, current events or problems that seem unsolvable? If so, I’d encourage you to try to open them again. I’d encourage you to fight ambivalence and to care more freely and more broadly. Caring does matter and they’ll notice when you do. Numbers don’t lie.

Agree or disagree?

Is caring worth the hassle?