Friday, January 28, 2011

Being A Better Person

The Yahoo home page recently had a teaser for an article on 10 Easy Ways to Be A Better Person. Given my resolution each year is always to take better care of myself and those around me, I clicked over, curious to see what I could add to my 'to do' list for the year. The article is based on a book by Zoe Weil and focuses on her MOGO (Most Good) principles. It includes some basic stuff like volunteering for a cause and helping build your community, but more than a few are hard to achieve if you're not a hard core, sustainable-minded Vegan that rides your bike to the office where you run your Non-Profit social justice center. I would not call these particularly "easy" ways to be a better person. Sure, if we all did these things the world would be a better place. The world would also be a better place if magic fairies came down and sprinkled us all with peace dust, ending violent crime and war. Sadly, about the same odds of happening.

So it made me think... what ARE some easy ways to be a better person? Certainly there are ways to be a better person without having some sort of massive global impact. I don't have to save the world, but I can be a better person to those around me. So I tried to come up with a couple. I managed five that I thought were important, but they're just a start. I want you to help me build it.

1. Be Grateful. I think most people just take things for granted. Saying 'thank you' is practically a lost art. I try to do my best to say it as much as possible for everything from someone holding the door for me to gifts. I need to do better at sending thank you cards. Hardly anyone does that anymore either, except PC, of course. A piece of mail that isn't junk or a bill is a luxury anymore. Maybe that's why I love Christmas cards. Its the only time anyone sends real mail. This leads me in to #2...

2. Keep In Touch. Yes, I know, we're friends on Facebook. And to be honest, if it wasn't for Facebook, I probably wouldn't be in touch with 80% of the people on that list. But is it a real replacement for relationships? Talking on the phone, going out to lunch, meeting for coffee and having a great talk... Some people are too far away to meet in person, but make the effort to call them or write them a letter. Send one of those 'thinking of you' cards. I guarantee that person will be touched and pleased and much more so than you "poking" them on FB.

3. Be Considerate. It stuns me how often I see people simply going around in their own little self-involved worlds. Only caring about what they want and need without giving any thought to others and how things impact them. People cut you off on the highway or refuse to let you merge. They whip in and take the parking spot you were waiting for. Just unnecessary rudeness. PC posted not long ago about how her neighbor put her trashcan out for her when they forgot. I always try to hold doors and help short or handicapped people in the store reach high shelves. I think we need more of this. More of thinking about others. Just little gestures.

4. Listen. I'll be the first to admit that through a lot of conversations, I'm waiting to talk or thinking about what I want to say next. Or I'll be multitasking, writing an email or doing something else while people are talking. I'm pretty good at it, but am I listening? Really listening? Probably not so much. Sometimes other people just want someone to listen and care about them and what's going on in their world. Not how the same thing happened to your Aunt Harriett. And sometimes the most important part of a discussion is what isn't said. The underlying tension, the unasked questions. The silent plead for a hug. If you aren't really listening, you're missing a lot.

5. Give Back. This is a pretty broad one. Could include anything from volunteering in your community to making the neighbor that put out your trash a plate of homemade cookies as a thank you. Do you have a skill to share? I recently taught a troop of girl scouts about scrapbooking. I've giftwrapped at the mall for charity. Walked a 5k for a good cause. DB used to mow part of our neighbor's yard while he was doing ours. It could be anything, but I think what's important is the act of giving, in any fashion, without expecting anything in return.

What do you think of my list? Add to it! What do you think are some easy ways to be a better person?



Maven Linda said...

I don't think being a better person is ever easy; it's almost always the harder choice. It's easier to watch TV than it is to write thank-you notes; it's easier to pretend you don't see the old lady struggling with packages and a door than it is to stop and help her, etc.

I don't have anything to add to your list; goodness gracious, that's enough to keep you busy!

Instigator said...

I'm impressed - with your list and your commitment to doing them. I'm going to be honest and say just reading them made me tired. I'd like to be a better person. I'd like to make it to church every Sunday and I'd like to write thank you notes.

I try to be nice and pleasant to the people around me. I know I could do better but I often say hello to complete strangers because I think we walk around the world with our head down and our minds on our to do list way too often these days. At least, I know I do. It's not much but I'm hoping it makes someone smile for at least five seconds.


Problem Child said...

I added "Be Aware" to my list. I try to pay more attention to things -- be it looking for ways to be kind or give back, or taking the time to see if something is recyclable instead of just pitching it.

I think the goal is to try, even if you don't always succeed -- that's what makes the world a better place.

~And yes, I write TY notes. And I make sure AC writes them, too. I think it's worth the time and the stamp.~

Playground Monitor said...

I had so many people do so many nice things for me over the last 18 months and because it was impossible in many cases to pay them back, I decided to pay it forward. So I help facilitate a divorce/grief recovery group. It's taken a lot of my time and that's probably why I haven't written much. But it's been rewarding to see people work through the grief of divorce or death of a spouse. I also made a commitment to get back to church and I've been there almost every Sunday for over a year. I made a monetary commitment to them too, and my check to them gets written before I even think about checking out that sale at Kohl's.

The "Be Considerate" part stood out to me. One of our chaptermates blogged about Grocery Store Rules and when I was in the store yesterday I tried to obey them all and was amazed at those who didn't.

It takes some effort to be a good person but it really pays off in the end. As the recipient of some of the good, I can say that for sure.

Angel said...

Wow! Totally late to the blog, but yesterday was a booger.

As another recepient of other people's good, let me say that listening and being kind to someone can really improve someone's situation (and possibly save their sanity). I'm so very grateful for the people who have supported me.

Because of time constraints, I don't go out of my way to volunteer, etc. So I DO try to practice each of these things, if for nothing else than to make someone's day better. One time, I had a door-to-door salesman come by. Now, I normally don't answer because I simply don't want to deal, but I was waiting for a client so the door was open. It was a young girl, early 20s, doing the carpet cleaning thing.

I waited for her to go through her speel, then I told her nicely. "I'm sorry, but I have a client coming by at any minute, I really can't let you demonstrate today. Do you have any information, so I can keep you in mind when I get the carpet cleaned before Thanksgiving?"

The girl actually teared up and said, "Thank you. You are the first person who has been polite to me all day." And it was 4pm. I felt so bad for her! You never know what 1 polite thing will make someone's day.

Be Aware. I love that. I get so focused on where I need to be/what I need to do/where I need to go, that I don't notice the people around me. I walked right past SP in the grocery store the other day and didn't realize it was her. I was focused on my list. This one I need to practice!