The Human Connection
As I write this, my heart is heavy over the news that a 12-year-old girl was killed in a town just across the river from where I grew up in Philadelphia. Her alleged killers were teenage brothers who apparently wanted her bike.
To say that news like that is saddening and maddening is an understatement. To say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, while tempting, is too sweeping and too fatalistic, and it makes it too easy to say, "There's nothing anyone can do."
But there is. I'm speaking in generalities, of course, but violence like this often is both a symptom and a result of a tidal wave of social ills and shortcomings. We're tempted to think that we need more laws, or more police, or more … something. But the problem is so much more grassroots than that. And when it comes to grassroots, everyone who reads this magazine knows whose turf that is.
The power to push back against the tide of need, apathy, ignorance, etc., behind the degradation of behavioral ethics lies more likely with nonprofits, with community groups. The power lies in the human connection. And the human connection is where nonprofit fundraisers excel. You all are so blessed. You've got it covered just by virtue of the work you do. I don't do what you do for a living, but I try to support the causes that are near and dear to my heart. And on an even more basic level, silly as it sounds, I've been trying to recruit friends and acquaintances to my personal Have a Nice Day Initiative. The name is sort of tongue-in-cheek, since I'm a product of the '70s. But there's a very real idea behind it. It requires only two things:
First, when you conclude any interaction with another person, damn the risk of sounding silly and go ahead and say, "Have a nice day." But don't just say it. Mean it. Look people in the eyes. Touch their arms. Make the time to stand still and connect. Second, take the advice of that new age-y bumper sticker and actually commit random acts of kindness. Give people a break when they're trying to nudge their way into the line of traffic. Bring the receptionist a cup of coffee for a change. Hold a door for someone. Do something nice for someone without he or she ever knowing who did it. Shovel your neighbor's sidewalk. Say thank you. Forgive someone. Smile.
Most people reading this probably don't have daily contact with someone who would kill a little girl. But maybe if you connect with your neighbor like this, she'll connect with her bus driver, and he'll connect with his cousin, and she'll connect with her hairdresser, and she'll connect with the kid who cuts her lawn. And maybe, just maybe, because he was blessed with the joy of human connection at just the right time, he'll make a better choice at some point down the road. Or maybe not, but that's where faith comes in. And hope. And you'll be none the worse for having made the effort.
I'm not naive. I don't think that wishing someone a nice day or even making a donation to a nonprofit organization will, in and of itself, change the world. But I do believe in the power of people and of the amazing ability of the collective desire and effort to create change. It's got to start somewhere, right? Why not here?