I’ve written quite about kindness and goodness. I’ve challenged you to pursue opportunities to look for ways to spread a little whenever you can. I’ve even tried to plant some ideas so that folks will recognize those moments and never underestimate the influence or goodness they can do. A kind word, a smile, even holding a door costs only a little thought – making a difference doesn’t always have to be something big and sometimes, you don’t even have to go out of your way.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to be sharing more on these ideas, but I want to start with something that has come in up in my community. I’m warning you – I’m pretty worked up about this!
Like most folks, we have a community newsletter on line that goes out to the surrounding subdivisions in our area. This allows neighbors to discuss anything from recommendations on local businesses or restaurants, getting some help, suspicious activity, lost and found pets… just about anything. When you click through on the newsletter, you will find many conversations regarding these things.
Recently, a thread was started about what was referred to as an ‘eyesore’ about a house in our area that quite frankly is an eyesore. This thread went on for 4 days. There were lots of posts about what to do to get it torn down or dealt with somehow – clearly, the neighbors in the conversation just want it gone. There were specific comments about a very old boat in the front yard attached to a truck that is just as ancient. The conversation became very ugly and went on and on – but there was no mention of any one going over to find out what’s going on over there. However, many had time to ‘talk’ about it.
After about 4 days into this thread, there were 60+ posts in and it was growing. I then noticed that a new guy joined the conversation. His post started with – and I quote – ‘Put up or shut up.’ He then went on to share that he’d gone over to check things out at this deteriorating house. He spent about 30 minutes there and learned that the guy who lives there is a Vietnam veteran who is 80+ years old, and in failing health. He’s on Social Security and can’t afford to fix things up or do anything about the house or yard, for that matter. To top it off, someone from the county had come to the house already to tell him he had until the end of this month to get quite a bit of work done. The post went on to say that he would be the go between for anyone who wanted to join him, and that he was looking for donations of saw to use for a couple of days, paint, wood, and so on to help this elderly veteran with all the work that has to be done. There is evidently a tree down that needs to be cleared out – no easy task. He also asked for help from neighbors who might be able to do some clean up. He ended his post with: ‘Let’s pitch in and help this guy out – otherwise, put a cork in it.’
You see he did have something better to do than sit around and complain – it only took him 30 minutes to get the scoop but he had no idea what he was walking into. I know, I know – it only takes a few minutes to write a sentence or two on the thread and keep the complaining going. But what good is that doing? To say it another way, it may have taken that same 30 minutes for the folks in this thread to ‘put up or shut up’, head over to the county office and ask about what the community needed to do to get rid of the ‘eyesore.’ At that point, they would have learned that the county is already on it. I’m not sure how the thread would have continued, but at the least everyone would have known the county was on the case and started dealing with it.
Whew! That’s quite a bit – but things didn’t stop there. The thread continued on, and a few people said they wanted to do what they could to help. Some shared links to places that are in the business of helping veterans; someone mentioned they knew someone with a tree removal service and would reach out to them. Yes – it only took a couple of hours and a few posts to get something started! Hmmm let’s think about – 3 days and all that had been accomplished was nothing. In less than one day, after one person spoke out, folks who want to help out are ready to get engaged.
Now the sad part – this thread also continued on with just pure meanness – or more to the point, with some bullying! I guess some people don’t have anything better to do. Isn’t there a Game of Thrones episode or some game on their electronics they can turn their attention to? Just as they had wanted, the county was already engaged and taking it seriously – the guy in the house had already been put on notice. Why did they need start bullying some of the people who had chosen to pitch in? It’s his or her choice to decide where to lean in and help someone out.
It just so happens that I met that very sweet veteran when I went over to deliver some bagels (more on that in a minute). I knocked on the door and he greeted me very kindly. He may be 80 years old but he looked closer to 60 than 80 in my book. He thanked me for the bagels and even invited me in. But I had to be somewhere so I had to run. He wasn’t complaining about how rough a day he was having or keeping any negativity going – he just seemed thankful for the goodnes folks were bringing him.
Back to the bagels – I was at a bagel shop when I noticed they were about to toss a bunch of bagels that hadn’t been sold yet, since they had a new batch ready. I went over and asked if they were going toss them and indeed, they were. So I asked if they would be willing to donate any of them. I explained my story to the manager and she said ‘let me go and check’ – and when she returned she said she’d been told she could give me 13. I was thrilled! But she followed up with ‘can you hang out a few more minutes?’ She was wanting to give me a few more – and she finally gave a lot more than 13! She wanted to do what she could to help out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not letting the guy in the house who has let things get so bad off the hook. And let me tell you – it’s awful! None of us know how or why this happened, and I’m not saying that guy is in the right or shouldn’t be held accountable. I’m not even sure anyone should be living there. What I am saying is – give it a rest! Don’t folks have better things to do than be negative and complain about the neighbors who are helping? The work that they are doing there makes it, step-by-step; better than it was the day before. If the county does step in any further, it’s a little less work for them to do. So either way, the ball is rolling.
The way the online thread turned doesn’t change things that are already in motion! The folks who’ve chosen to step up are going to stay the course, I’m sure! Wait – things did change – that thread was not just shut down, but removed. The complainers didn’t put a cork in it, and now they’ve lost their forum. I can’t but help but wonder – what’s next? Are they on to better things, or will they just start another thread to keep negativity going? After all, maybe they don’t have anything better to do.
Here’s a little something to think about – a little goodness can get things moving pretty quickly. Sitting around and bullying on line doesn’t get things mobilized like 30 minutes of effort and kindness to an elderly Veteran from one guy!