Surprise! It’s Christmas day and the world is a better place!
There are still atrocities and evils. There still exist examples of every way in which a human being can be a bad person. But there are also examples of good in this world. I don’t mean the good that you can find in a church, though I’m sure that churches do contain some. I don’t mean the pretty words that people say to meet with societal approval. I don’t mean either side of any political argument. The good that I’m talking about is found in the motivation for single, individual actions that cause ripples throughout our human network. That network has existed for far longer than integrated circuits and telephone cables.
One person makes a choice to act in favor of freedom or against cruelty. One person stands up against a harmful deed. One person rewards compassion. There are thousands, maybe millions of individuals who chose to do a good thing today. I don’t know what all of those things are, but I see some of the actions in my friends and acquaintances every day. Most of the actions are minor, others are grand. I’m sure today was not too different.
Except that, I had a mission for Christmas: I wanted to spread Christmas cheer. How trivial! How foolish! I cannot say for certain that anything I did will have repercussions that last longer than tomorrow. I never thought that it would. I don’t know that my actions will have any greater consequence than to bring smiles to a few faces. I’m not pompous enough to believe that they will. But I remember the human network. We interact with each other. In those interactions, the way we behave has as much of an impact on others as the actual moves we make.
It seems to me that because of technological advancements, the human network has become terribly effective in altering the flow of our society, without the realization of most participants. This current state of idea transfer is so quick and so blatant that advertising executives have figured out that the concept can be used to connect with consumers on a very visceral level. Commercials and print ads have both glommed onto the human network concept with great results. Some are obvious, like Cisco’s ads that actually refer to “the human network”. Others are more subtle, like department store commercials where one person hands off a product to another person and so forth. I didn’t like the old Morgan Fairchild Old Navy commercials, but I like the new ones that show clothes being passed around this way.
I try to influence the network, too. I don’t have the funds or free time to give gifts or cards to every good person I know, but I do what I can. This year, I sent gifts or cards via the handy shipping industries to over forty people. Last night, I personally visited thirty-one people in twenty-three different locations covering about 270 miles (I did get a little lost here and there). That makes seventy-one people within one week, if you don’t count their immediate family members who may be visiting or living with them. Since the first of December, if you estimate that I spent two hours on average for each blog entry, then today makes fifty hours. That means I’ve spent longer than the standard work week just on writing up ideas in hopes of raising spirits (mostly my own, but still…) I know that at least two people who are not in my immediate circle of contacts have read my blogs, because they told me so. Maybe a few others have, too.
I’m not a big company. I’m not a celebrity or a television network or a periodical publisher. I’m neither teacher, public speaker, nor politician. In my regular course of events, there’s a limit to how many people I can readily affect, so I’m proud of my efforts. It got to be such an endeavor this year that I had to design a database to keep track of it all. (I’ll be releasing the Gift Giver’s List, v.1.0, just a little ways down the road. It makes a great present for that loved one with OCD.)
I don’t believe I harmed anyone or anything in my pursuit of Cheer, but I’ve already gotten some responses that make me think that I’ve given people a little boost of happiness they may not have otherwise had today. I hope that this boost might last until tomorrow. If it lasts until next week for anybody, then I’ll be thrilled by my own accomplishment. And maybe, just maybe, because of my efforts, some of this sentiment will get passed on to even more people. How many times have you been in a difficult situation where you didn’t make it any better because you were in a sour mood? How many times have you made matters worse due to a bad mood? It’s happened to me on too many occasions to count. Can we make clearer choices when we are feeling positive? Does it become easier to choose the good choice when we’re already feeling good? I think so.
How many political debates become vendettas because of a bad attitude? How many theological discussions carry a burden of grumpiness that makes people close their minds tighter instead of opening themselves up to new perspectives? How many consumers would forgive a good business person for mistakes if only they are treated with a bit more empathy? If only those people could get a funny or heartwarming card just before the bad happens. That’s far too simple to be right, but you never know. Until we are all replaced by robots, attitude does make a difference in our days. I’m personally hoping that my robot impression will save me even when the time does come. But until then, I can see the worth of good spirits, even if it’s hard for me to retain them.
It’s very likely that tomorrow, I’ll go back to hating everybody and everything, everywhere, for every reason. Today, I’m keeping a tight grasp on my good mood along with a cup of hot cocoa and various baked goods. Today, I’m laughing as loud as I want at every little thing. Today, I’m still not embarrassed to admit that I cry during those sappy Christmas specials. Today, I love you all for doing nothing else than taking the time to read my ridiculously verbose articles. Tomorrow, I’ll probably deny it all.
But today, at least slightly, the world is a better place because I made it so.