“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ~Desmond Tutu
To say that I have been feeling a general lack of hope or positivity or joy over the past few weeks would be to greatly underrepresent how awful I have actually felt much of the time.
Because what is taking place in our country right now is both disheartening and terrifying, rage-inducing and saddening, and is just completely overwhelming in scope.
I have found myself bursting into spontaneous tears at the dinner table, waking at 4am consumed by anxiety, and finding it almost impossible to focus on work and daily life and the actual things that need to get done in order for my microcosmic world not to devolve into chaos.
In addition, I realized earlier this week that I had lost complete sight of my gratitude, and that I wasn’t allowing myself to feel even momentarily thankful for all the good stuff I have been afforded in my life, having (unconsciously, it seems) convinced myself that to celebrate anything at all amidst the ugliness of what’s happening in Washington, D.C. would be somehow inappropriate.
Fortunately, a quick trip to the grocery store yesterday opened my eyes to just how wrong I was in this assumption.
I was having a conversation about the state of our country with the cashier — a lovely woman with whom I have spoken several times before — and she mentioned that she’d been feeling guilty about celebrating some really great things that were happening in her personal life in light of how seemingly dire the larger political picture is at the moment.
I nodded my head and made a comment about the challenge of finding positivity amidst all the negativity, and about how I was struggling to enjoy the good things in my life in spite of the ubiquitous ugliness with which we are currently being bombarded.
As soon as I had finished my thought, the woman behind me in line chimed in to say, “No! Good for you! Celebrate the good things. And then use them to do more good!”
She then shared a story about how she and her partner were having some serious financial troubles this past week, which had made the political news of the past several days even more difficult to take in. She told us that an anonymous person had dropped $300 into her mailbox yesterday, with a kind note for her and her family, and that this gesture had made all the difference for her the past 24 hours.
And this story completely turned my day around.
Because, yes, let’s stay informed about what’s happening and let’s call our senators and protest and do all the things to fight for the values we believe in.
But let’s not forget the impact a small gesture of kindness can have and that this gesture can ripple outwards in unexpected ways.
I’m fairly certain the person who delivered the anonymous $300 didn’t expect that the recipient would later tell the story of this act and inspire two strangers in the grocery store to think about things differently, to use their good to create more good instead of denying the good altogether — but that’s exactly what happened.
So let’s fight like hell for the things in which we believe, but let’s not lose sight of our joy along the way.
And then let’s do what we can to perpetuate that joy, to share it with others as often as possible, to use that joy as fuel for the fight ahead.
Because as one of my favorite writers and activists, Rebecca Solnit, wrote in her wonderful book, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities: “Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated, and isolated, joy is a fine initial act of insurrection.”