July 7, 2013

15 Ways to Stay Human. ~ Jennifer White & Bryonie Wise

During my walk with my dog this afternoon, as I was thinking through titles for Jennifer’s piece, an idea hit me like a strike of lightening!

I had recently been working on my own top ten list of how to be kind in ever-changing, ever-moving world (I don’t know if it’s the heat and humidity of summer in the city, but it seems that humanity has forgotten the “kind” part of co-existing) and so how remarkable would it be to for her and I to combine our our lists and make one giant list to stay human? The kind of list you might want to print out or send to friends or strangers who have forgotten the fine art of thinking about others (you know who I’m talking about).

Gratefully, she loved the idea—and so here we go. ~ Bryonie

It often seems that many people out there have forgotten what a huge impact small acts of kindness have.

We love to blame technology or other extraneous societal features for the downfall of healthy social interactions. We’re all busy (oh so busy) living our lives, that the speed at which we are moving seems to have eradicated our manners and our thought to the beings that exist around us.

Here are 15 little things that we can all do everyday that have the potential to ripple out into another’s life in a big, happy way.

1. Smile.

This one might seem transparently obvious, but if it is, then why aren’t more people doing it?

Have you ever had someone smile sincerely at you while you were shopping or walking on the trail or doing just about anything? That’s it, just smile.

Smiles are contagiously positive good energy—and they’re free and relatively easy to give away.

2. Bring “Please” and “Thank you” back into style.

There is nothing that makes my heart leap more then a request proceeded by a “Please” and followed by a “Thank you.”

It may be old-fashioned—and it’s possible that growing up (predominately) with my British mother and grandmother (the British take their manners very seriously) that manners and the desire to be polite actually floods through my veins—frankly, I don’t give a damn.

If you have the time to breathe, you have the time to dust off your manners and put them into use.

3. Slow down for cyclists.

Contrary to popular belief, you can stop for and slow down behind people on bikes. You don’t, in fact, have to dangerously clip past them while swerving into someone else’s lane head on. Even if you’re behind a cyclist for (gasp!) a few minutes going at a slower speed, trust me, it’s perfectly okay—and it’s also appreciated by the road cyclist in front of you (as long as you’re not riding her rear wheel.)

And if you really want to make our world a happier place to be, then get out there on your bike too.

4. Keep your bike off the sidewalk.

Yes, get your bike out there…but keep it off of the sidewalk.

Riding a bike in the city can be a terrifying experience, given road rage (see #7) and our need to get everywhere yesterday.

However, unless you are a kid, riding your bike on the sidewalk is dangerous for everyone else who is, well, walking on the sideWALK.

If cycling in the city make you that nervous, then invest in a metropass or walk.

5. Don’t ignore kids.

I can’t believe how many places my daughter and I go where people blatantly ignore her. She doesn’t understand this either.

We’ll be eating lunch, for example (she loves going out to eat—such a Leo) and she glances over at the table next to us and smiles (some things we start out doing and then lose)—and then no one at the table gives her the time of day.

I’m not suggesting that you stop your meal and coo over my child, but, come on, smile at her. She’s tiny and, thank God, hasn’t yet figured out that not everyone is friendly, and you just hurt her feelings (and I remember having my feelings hurt at her age, and emotions, trust me, are not relative to size).

6. Respect your furchild(ren).

Part of the joy of having a furchild is well, everything—and, if you’re going to accept the unconditional love that your warm-hearted creature has to offer, know that it’s your responsibility to love them back.

And this means dealing with poop, too—we don’t get to choose the parts that we want to do when we have a being that depends on us. Although picking up after my dog or (cleaning the litter box for my cats) isn’t my favorite thing to do, it’s my job to do it. End of story.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t leave a child in a dirty diaper for long; so why leave your yard (or your neighbour’s) littered with poop?

7. Stop with the road rage.

As long as I live, I will never comprehend people who get their jollies by driving like raving lunatics.

Here’s one way that you can make everyone’s life safer and more peaceful: understand that when I’m going the speed limit, that you cannot push me to go faster by riding my tail. Rather, I have to slow down, because on the curvy, deer-laden roads where I live, I now have to be more observant since, with you right behind me, I have less time to stop and keep my small, amazing backseat passenger safe.

In short, if you need to get out some adrenine-fueled action, then get off your duff and exercise instead of using your car as your means of aggressive release. 

8. And, stop at crosswalks. 

I know, I know: you are in a rush, the sun is in your eyes, you are deep in conversation (using a headset, to be safe), your favorite song is on the radio and you are lost in a day dream…but, because your eyes (and attention) weren’t on the road, you just very nearly ran me over.


Walking across a designated crosswalk (with flashing lights and everything) has become like a game of russian roulette; I feel like I take my life into my own hands and the bullet is your vehicle (car, truck, motocycle, bicycle).

Please, my family asks you to keep your eyes (and attention) on the road…and my bet is, your family does too.

9. Patiently wait your turn.

I thought we had all learned this one in elementary school, but apparently not.

My family and I were at Trader Joe’s over the weekend, and this elderly man just walked right in front of me and set his stuff down and the check out boy didn’t have the courage to right this old man’s wrong. Boy, was I miffed.

I kind of stood there in shock until an extremely nice worker, who observed all of this, quickly swooped in and opened up a new register for us.

Side note: her smile and simple kindness throughout the rest of our experience helped me to completely let go of the irritating one that had preceded. Additionally, for generations, elders have blamed the younger ones for society’s downfall, only to turn around and then become this next aging group. (Meaning, a good attitude has no age limits.)

10. Support local business.

As much as you can, think about shopping locally, not only with your food selections, but just in general.

My husband recently needed some break parts for his cyclo-cross bike, so he ordered them from the local bike shop rather than online. That kind of thing.

Every little bit helps when it comes to small business, and, selfishly, these retailers are often boosting the economy for the area where you live too.

11. Think about your trash.

I could write an entire article on this one.

This small suggestion might not seem good enough to the other green activists out there, but as much as you can think about the waste that you’re creating, and size down in any way you can. Every little bit helps here, too.

12. Listen to the quiet.

Just as we bring awareness to our physical trash, do you ever pause to think about the noise you make and how that affects the people around you?

Living in a city, we are already overwhelmed by so much noise; moving cars, trains, the high-pitch screaming of the subway, barking dogs, garbage trucks, air conditioning units…the list goes on and on.

But what about the quiet? Where has it gone?

(I have a neighbor that turns her speaker to face the street from her window and plays (terrible) music on a volume so loud that it makes my head hurt and brings tears to my eyes. There are no set times for when she feels like getting down; sometimes, it’s the middle of the day and others, the music starts at 3am and continues on and off throughout the day. Shutting the windows has no affect and often times, I feel like the neighborhood is being held captive.)

You and I don’t live in a bubble; what we do affects the people that live around us and that includes the noise we make.

13. Exercise.

When that worker rushed in at Trader Joe’s to help make things better, I was watching her ring up our groceries with her easy pleasantness and it dawned on me that she seemed like she runs or hikes or bikes or something. I was then slapped with the realization that exercise makes us happier people—so that we can then share this happiness outward. (The other side benefits of exercise aren’t bad either. See also #7.)

14. Speak with love.

Just like a smile is contagious in the best way, so are gentle words. One of my greatest friends always says to speak the truth with love. This is a deceptively powerful message.

Often, I need to recite her words to myself mentally, because it’s sadly all too easy to tell untruths for simplicity’s sake, and it’s also too easy (for me at least) to have a razor-like tongue.

I might have mentioned before that I have “foot in mouth” disease, so the think-before-you-speak thing doesn’t always help me. However, what does work is looking at the people who make up my world as if they were were children. I find it gives me more compassion and patience (see #9).

15. Don’t underestimate the power of one.

I’m not a big bumper sticker person—not because I don’t like them but because I’m fickle (part of why I never say never). Regardless, one of the stickers that caught my eyes years ago remains one of my favorite slogans still.

“Think globally, act locally.”

The smile that you extend might change an individual’s entire day. It might make her go out and smile too—changing yet another person’s attitude as well.

That cyclist that you slowed down behind might have a significantly better ride while she’s out—and that might wholly affect what she goes on to do.

The little things that we do—or don’t do—impact our world profoundly.

When you think, or instance, that recycling your single, small plastic container can’t possibly make a huge difference, then think about how many of us collectively have just one teensy item too—it all adds up.

Every action, every reaction, every word, every thought—they all add up.

And there we have it; two hearts that beat in different cities, different countries, even, find that these tiny universal intricacies of human kindness and plain consideration are ubiquitously important and central to a smoothly operating society.

So think—and then, speak (and act) with love.

 “The best portion of a good man’s life. His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”

~ William Wordsworth



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 Ed: Bryonie Wise

(Photo: via Pinterest}


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