I’m sure you’ve all heard someone in your life tell you, man, I hate people.
I hate that phrase. It always gets me frustrated the second it leaves someone’s mouth, and it takes every bit of self-restraint in my body not to blurt out something trite; you haven’t met everyone in the whole world, so you can’t really say that, can you? Sometimes, even all my self-restraint isn’t enough. Sometimes, I say these things anyway, and you know what happens? Nothing. There’s too much evidence to the contrary for my words alone to change their view. I’m no match for countless stories of shootings and police brutality and robbery. What good is my small disagreement, when we’re still having to fight against issues like racism and homophobia?
Honestly? Not much.
Words alone cannot undo years’ worth of damage. It’s likely that people that think this way have been dealt a shitty hand, and they’ve encountered a lot of shitty people as a result. It’s possible that they have absolutely no reason to believe that there are plenty of good people left on this earth, and that’s not their fault. One person telling them, but not everyone’s like that! doesn’t change the fact that, for them, many were.
Social media can really put the nail in the coffin when it comes to these things. I see stories getting circulated all the time about police violence, murders, shootings, kidnappings, hate crimes—I could go on. I want to be aware of what is going on in the world that I’m living in, and I want to know the battles my people (all people) are pushing through, but I worry that, without balance, this constant stream of negative news will dampen people’s hope for the future. I don’t want teenagers and young adults to look at the wreckage left from years before and think that there’s nothing they can do to make a difference. If they start to see the population as a lost cause, then they won’t fight, and the world will never get better. We’ll just keep making the same mistakes.
Today, I’m giving each of you a challenge.
But I’m going to tell you a little story first. Context is everything, kids.
I write articles by night, but by day, I’m a receptionist at a barbershop. A few weeks ago, a woman came into the shop with her son and, very resolutely, wrote her name down on our sign-in sheet. It seemed like she’d had a long day. It was a slow evening, so she didn’t have to wait long. My co-worker had only been back with her for a few minutes before she came back to the front desk to grab the box of tissues and told me, “She has breast cancer. She came in tonight to shave off all of her hair.”
I walked by her chair a few times once they’d started. The struggle was written in this woman’s face, and her son (no more than 11 or 12) was standing right beside her, holding her hand. That alone was enough to pluck at my heartstrings, but it was what happened after her service that prompted me to write this article. My co-worker came to the front desk with a newly shaved section of hair on the side of her head, done in solidarity for this complete stranger who happened to end up in her chair. Apparently, her grandmother was taken by breast cancer in April of last year, and she was actually going to be getting a tattoo in memory of her just two days later. She told me, “I just had to do it. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re going through this alone.”
That night, my co-worker gave that incredibly strong woman a reason to smile.
I’m challenging each of you to be that person for someone else.
The world needs an army of do-gooders, and this is our call-to-arms. The next time you see someone in need of help, do everything in your power to help them. If you see someone being treated unfairly, bring attention to it. If someone near you is being hurt, get them to a safe place. Fight for the things you believe in. Fight for the happiness of your fellow human beings. Each and every one of you has the power to make a difference in someone’s life today, so long as you keep yourself and your heart open to the world around you.
All it takes is one person.