Monday, August 24, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - A Random Sign to Set the World Right

"There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communication ... Try the experiment of communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and you will find your own attitude toward your experience changing." ~ John Dewey

This morning when I stepped outside, there was a decided feeling of Fall. I felt like I might have just stepped through some kind of portal and been taken back in time. All of a sudden, it didn't feel like New York anymore. It felt more like Society Hill in Philadelphia, where I went to college. The squat, ornate brownstones. The crisp air. The feeling that some great historic figure would emerge into the street at any moment.

I didn't sleep much in college. One, because my insomnia was at its peak for the entire 4 year stretch. Two, because I was woefully behind all of my other classmates, meaning I had to work twice as hard, at least, just to keep my head above water. Three, because I had to work multiple jobs all the way through. I spent a lot of early mornings watching the sun come up. During my senior year, I worked at Olde City Coffee all the way downtown. I loved the trip down there in the early morning, before anyone was awake. I felt like I had Philly to myself for a little while. This morning took me back to those early mornings at Olde City and everything I looked forward to when I was 21.

I remember a few thoughts vividly from that time. I was interested in making a strong, lasting impact on the world. I was determined to be financially stable. I spent a lot of my time thinking about what I wanted to be my contribution to humanity. Going to school in Philadelphia, a place that is steeped in history, intellect, and righteous rebellion, renders people practically unable to consider anything except the big picture. Now, I treasure those days. At the time, I was really scared that I'd never live up to the impossibly high standards that my school impressed upon us daily. The constant reminder of greatness that the founding fathers left scattered around Philly didn't help either. At some point, you begin to worry that anything short of founding your own nation is just not a high enough achievement.

As I made my way to the subway, I saw the sign depicted in the image above. In some type of chalk / paint / marker, someone had written "If we all do one random act of kindness daily we just might set the world in the right direction. ~Martin Kornfeld". Maybe it was thinking about my college days that had me waxing nostalgic; this sign really struck me. I had to stop and take a photograph. It communicated a profound message to me so simply and beautifully, and I'm sure it's done the same for countless other. If only I had seen this sign sooner, about 12 years sooner, I might have been able to calm down a little bit about my life and its direction.

I thought about this sign all day and how much good it does for all who see it. Imagine if all of us, everyday, did just one nice thing for someone else. Someone we know. Someone we don't know. Someone who may never know us. How different would our communities and the larger world look? And imagine how different our own attitude toward our experiences would be. Maybe it's all we can hope for - giving a little kindness, getting a little kindness, and doing our small part to make our communities a tiny bit better than how we found them the day before. It seems to me that that is a contribution to humanity that we could all be proud of.

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