On my way to work this morning I passed a semi-truck with Christmas lights strung across the grill and the windows of the cab. It was still dark and they were wonderful – so colorful and sparkly. So unexpected. The truck could be from almost anywhere, (we were on a US highway), and headed who knows where, but for one second, our paths crossed, and the driver, who I will never meet, put a smile on my face, because he took the time to do something fun and offered it to the world as a gift.
I love that! I like people like that. I would like to be like that. I am lucky to have friends who are like that, and that spontaneity, sense of humor/fun and generosity of spirit is exactly what I love about them most.
People often disappoint me. I get discouraged when I make the mistake of reading the news or hanging out on Facebook or Twitter too much. Or when I overhear a situation in which someone is being treated without respect, or bullied, or thought to be “less than” for some reason. Or when I encounter someone – usually in traffic – who appears to think only of themselves, and in doing so treats the people around them as though their needs don’t matter. There is no shortage of reported instances – especially in the United States lately – in which people are less than kind to each other.
This is when I start thinking of other people as “them” or “those people.” Of course, I know there is only US – ALL of us. There is no “them.” We are all human and sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrible. It’s a package deal. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, though.
I have to take a step back and think: do I do all those things I listed in the paragraph above? Absolutely. Not intentionally, at least as an adult, but I do, and that’s true of most of us, probably. I am the least perfect person I know.
Life is hard, and harsh and sometimes we humans buckle under the weight of life and act less kindly or patiently than we hope to. Sometimes I say or do things that make me cringe, and I disappoint myself, cuz that’s just not who I want to be. In the heat of the moment, though, especially if I feel threatened, some ugly black thing slithers out of me before I know it.
Perhaps that’s the worst part about being human. It’s in most of us, I wager: that ugly black assemblage of past hurts and slights and mistreatment. It’s so disappointing. With a few notable exceptions, I guess, we all have our moments. And I’ll bet even Mother Theresa and Ghandi had those moments at some point in their lives, too. They were human, and it comes with the territory.
But, there’s so much more.
The best part of being human – putting Christmas lights on your truck to spread some cheer, just because you can – is in us, too. We’re all trying our best in difficult circumstances, but sometimes we do better than that. Humans are creative and loving and kind, too. This time of year, especially, there are instances of the best humans can be and that’s heartening.
I’m not any of those “best” things often enough anymore, though, and seeing those lights this morning helped me realize that. Decades battling depression and the stress of the last few years have dimmed that light in me.
I accept that I’m a work in progress, and I have to remember that about everyone else, too. We’re all just doing the best we can, but sometimes someone does something good that reminds us that we can do even better.
My lights are dim, perhaps, but they’re not out completely, and I’m going to make it my goal this next year to figure out how to get the spark going again. We can all do it. Give expression to that fun, loving, creative part of ourselves and see what comes out. Figure out what we have to offer the world and give it freely.
Whatever I come up with probably won’t make a bit of difference in the world, but I hope it makes a difference in me. I hope it takes me another step closer to the person I’d like to be. I hope, too, that whatever I have to offer has the impact on someone else that the anonymous truck driver had on me this morning. In that way maybe we can change the world, one person at a time, one light at a time.
Let it begin with me.