“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” ~ Fred Rogers
In the midst of all the negative news that keeps trending, I have been desperate to find a glimpse of love and positivity.
I didn’t have to look hard to find it among my tribe, the wonderful people I have the privilege to know, love, and admire. I keep thinking about that Fred Rogers quote about looking for the helpers during challenging times, and I am happy to say that I have surrounded myself with helpers. These people have the most amazing souls, and they have inspired me to bring to you this list of seven beautiful ways to spread the love.
I should tell you that, lately, all I want to do is throat punch a Nazi. I spend a good deal of time smiting trolls and verbally eviscerating people who advocate hate ideology. I’m more likely to come at you with anger—albeit righteous anger.
But I have friends who, despite their own anger, are also filled with love, compassion, understanding, and kindness. They are my heroes. Here are just a few things we can all do to spread the love far and wide in times of turmoil:
1. Host a rush hour positivity event.
This is brought to us by Sarah Lamb and Humans Being the Change. This series of events in Rochester offer a dose of love and positivity to the weary worker sitting in rush hour traffic. Participants make beautiful, motivational signs and hold them up for passing traffic.
The signs say things like, “You are enough,” and, “You matter.” While the events are held from Lamb’s home base of Rochester, people can participate from anywhere. Simply make a sign, choose a high traffic area, and spread the love. No money is collected. No leaflets are passed out. Everything centers around spreading the message of love and encouragement.
2. Use your birthday or special day to promote goodness.
A friend of mine with the most beautiful heart asked for a special birthday gift: she asked that her white friends actually take a person of color out to dinner or for a cup of coffee to listen to their experiences—only if they are willing, without making excuses, explaining, justifying, or in any way invalidating those experiences.
She asks this because she is passionate about helping people understand racial injustice. She wants to encourage people to open up the lines of communication.
Truly, this could be applied in other situations. If there is a type of person you feel a prejudice about, just listen to them. Open yourself up and hear their story without the normal defensiveness that comes with being confronted about your own attitudes and behaviors.
Another idea would be to ask friends to donate to a particular charity you support or to help someone in need in lieu of gifts or even a party. There are so many ways we can reach out to others, and I love the idea of making a special day for ourselves special for others, too.
3. Paint rocks with inspirational messages and place them throughout your town.
I love this. Tell people, “You rock,” or leave another inspirational message to inspire someone else. This is a great activity to do with children, too. Spread joy by leaving these messages everywhere.
4. Hide books around your town to give away for free.
Yes, I borrowed this idea from the lovely and inspirational Emma Watson. I love that she has spread books in cities all over the world. Whether we leave a volume of poetry by Maya Angelou or simply a favorite book we’ve always loved, we can buy cheap copies of paperback books and find safe (and dry) places to leave them to share the joy of reading. This is such a wonderful thing to do.
Some book ideas that come to mind could be Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love; Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist; volumes of poetry; a beloved children’s book; or a classic novel. James Hilton’s Lost Horizon would likely be my pick, but there are so many fantastic choices.
5. Bake goodies for a service worker.
This isn’t by any means a new idea, but we can be creative about it. Who are the people who provide services in our lives who are often overlooked? Food service workers? Postal workers? Teachers on a day that’s not specifically Teacher Appreciation Day? Clerical staff? Grocery cashier?
We can spread love by making a sweet treat for the people who make our lives easier and don’t always get a “thank you.” No time to bake? Buy a bag of treats and simply label them with a thank you note and pass them out to anyone who deserves them. People love to feel appreciated.
6. Send out compliments.
So there’s this whole app called Sarahah. I’ve noticed several friends using it. With it, you can receive anonymous comments and suggestions. They’re meant to be constructive.
But here’s a novel idea: we can let people know we appreciate or admire them without the anonymity. It’s as easy as scrolling through our social media and saying something nice to every single person we see. We can tell them how much we love the funny memes they post or how great their hair looks. We can let them know that we appreciate their activism or admire their family pictures. We can find a way to spread the joy.
And—now this one is tough for me—when we notice the trolls, we can stop feeding them. Instead of arguing with angry strangers, we can, instead, like and comment on the posts we agree with and let the trolls starve for the attention they are so desperately seeking. We can also compliment people we meet and help make others’ days brighter.
7. We can be the change for the environment, too.
When we walk by litter on our streets, we can pick it up and put it in the proper receptacle. If recycling is available in our area, we can make sure that we reduce waste by recycling all recyclable material (most packaging is recyclable). We can be eco-conscious consumers who care about the ingredients in the products we use and care if they were tested on animals or not. We can choose to buy local. We can join co-ops to get fresh food while supporting local farmers. We can compost. We can walk or bike rather than drive when possible.
There are so many things we can do that would have a positive impact on the environment, and if everyone did just one of those things and made one positive change, the impact would be astounding! We think we don’t make a difference, but the difference a single individual can make is incredible and important.
We can get bogged down by the negativity surrounding us. It’s everywhere—in the news, in traffic, in our own hearts and minds.
Or, we can choose to embrace love and to share it. We can choose to find ways of lifting other people up and making the world better for our presence in it. No, it’s not easy. Sometimes we want to rage, to flail out against the evil we see.
But, I think, sometimes we need to drown it. We need to drown it with words of love and messages of hope and our stubborn refusal to be cowed. We need to show up with our signs that shout, “You matter,” and let people know that we care.
We need to let the evil be carried away by the tide of our love and compassion.
Here are a few ways to do that. What ideas do you have?
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Khara-Jade Warren