By Lou Pastina
I have a friend who taught me this important lesson in life, he told me “If you are arguing with more than one person in your life, it’s probably you.” What he meant was that if you are having frequent arguments with people, in all probability all those people can’t be the one who is argumentative, the odds are that you are probably the one who is the problem. I have used the line many times and find that there is great value and wisdom in that simple saying.
My mermaid has taught me what it is like to be truly kind. It’s easy to be kind to people who are nice to you. You always feel good when you do something for someone when they have been good to you. On the other hand, it’s really hard to be kind to people who are not so nice to you. That’s where I fall down a lot. I get defensive or think of how best to respond to someone who isn’t really nice. The mermaid thinks differently, she is an empath, as most mermaids are, and looks inward first, asking did I do anything to cause this reaction? If not, how can I best be of service to help them. My Brooklyn upbringing usually causes me to think what an idiot the other person is first, then I think well, maybe I was the idiot. And as my friend above likes to say, if you see everyone around you as the problem, then maybe the problem is you!
It doesn’t take much to extend a smile, a handshake, to say hello, to do something unexpectedly nice. It’s easier to sneer, to say something snippy. But it really doesn’t make you feel good inside. When others pass you by and ask “how are you,” they are usually sincere. We live in a neighborhood that is very different than most places. We can walk to the store, go to services, go to the beach, and say hello to ten people before you have walked half a block. And that changes your outlook, it makes you feel like you are part of a community of like-minded friends. It makes you feel like you are not alone, that you are human, and as humans we need that connection to complete us.
It’s possible that what we read in the papers and see on TV and scroll through social media is not reality. That those are the exceptions that exist in this world of nearly 8 billion people. And that a few bad apples don’t mean that the whole batch is rotten. But after we have it continually presented to us day after day, we begin to think that this is the “normal reality,” when in fact it is not. The normal reality is that most people are nice, good, ethical, and aspire to a better world. By smiling, saying hello, helping neighbors in need, we re-enforce that reality. It doesn’t take much to take stock and be grateful of everything that we have, have been given; rather than to envy what we don’t have, and can’t have. Doing something for other people, rather than focusing on oneself is hard, but the rewards are so much greater. And when we see people give away their love, their gifts, especially when they may not have much to give at all, it is truly inspiring stuff.
We have all heard the story about the kid who was going to commit an act to end their life, when someone did something unexpectedly nice to them, like sticking up for them by being a friend. The story usually goes that the friend didn’t even know he was doing anything special, and no one knew that the person contemplated hurting themselves. But it changed the very course of the person’s existence. How wonderful to be able to do something like that, simply by being nice, by being kind. There are clips of Robin Williams on social media in which he advises us all to be aware of what someone may be going through before making a comment about them or to them.
Yes, kindness most certainly matters. Maybe the corollary of my friend’s saying is, “if you are surrounded by nice people, maybe the reason is you.”