Monday, December 17, 2012

How to Grow Your Heart Two Sizes

I watched the president's speech in Newtown last night and cried. My heart goes out to everyone in that community. This morning I arrived at work only to find that the first email was from a co-worker whose father is very ill. It's the happiest time of the year and there is far too much sadness. So, so much of it everywhere.

It's very easy for me to get bogged down in that. I think it's hard for a lot of people this time of year, and depression makes it worse because it already tells me that life sucks. "Give up. Go back to bed. Why bother?"

But I decided that this year is going to be different. I've been so tired the last several years that I've made very little holiday effort. I've gone through the motions but my heart hasn't been in it. Most years I've only done it because of D; otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. Then this year I decided to be spirited and to enjoy the holiday. I still haven't baked enough (or at all) or watched enough Christmas movies but I'm in it more than I have been in recent years.

I loved helping our adopted family. It felt so good to be able to help people that really needed it. But then I keep hearing about more people in similar situations and it feels like I haven't done enough. That helping just one family almost isn't worth it when there are SO MANY people that need help. And I would love to help everyone, but I don't have the resources for that. My bank account only stretches so far.

So yesterday I decided to just give thanks to someone else who is doing something on a regular basis. To give them some encouragement to keep going, to know that their efforts are appreciated. They're both "friends" on Facebook.

One happens to be a little Boston Terrier who visits elderly people and sick children and many other people in need in his community. Of course there is a man with a giant heart behind this little dog who deserves most of the credit. I mean, the dog is adorable and obviously helps people, but he can't answer the phone when he's wanted for an appearance or drive himself there. Even though he does have his own motorcycle.

The other is actually a friend of a friend whom I have never met. She got tired of hearing about all of the shelter dogs who never find homes and decided to do something about it. She adopted two dogs herself from high-kill shelters and then floods my newsfeed daily with photos of other dogs whose lives are on the line. I don't mind. I'm glad someone is doing it. When she posted about how she feels like she isn't doing enough and gets discouraged knowing that so many,  many dogs are still put down daily, I had to respond.

I posted messages to both thanking them for what they do. I chose people with dogs because that is my passion. And it took all of maybe 10 minutes. Probably less. They both responded so I knew that they had heard me, but it wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't heard back. The point was to put a little more niceness out in the world. A little encouragement, a little bit of gratitude.

There isn't enough kindness right now. It's easy to get frustrated at long lines in stores and say something snarky about it. But you know what? It's just as easy to be nice to that cashier when it's your turn. Because she's probably dealt with a hundred crabby people and really needs someone to have some patience with her. It's easy to send out a message to someone you know or even don't know and thank them for what they do. Shovel a neighbor's driveway, let someone in line in front of you, leave a bigger tip than normal.

Someone might be on the verge of giving up. Giving up their cause, their plans, even their life. One kind word or act from you could change that. Even if you never know, you'll at least know you've done your best.

Let's do our best today.


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