Saturday, August 30, 2014

Build the world you want

Human behavior is contagious.  We're social animals that are gifted with brains that are incredibly good at mimicry.  Introduce a new useful skill to one of us and return us to our group, and that behavior will spread.  Franz De Waal writes pretty extensively about the phenomenon among primates, including us, in The Age of Empathy, which I really enjoyed reading and highly recommend. Why am I telling you this?

I look around and see behaviors that are terrible. I see it online. I see it waiting to pick kids up from school. I see it the grocery store. I also see some amazing people trying to crate a better world. These are the ones to pay attention to. They are great teachers and creators of a better world.  I see two ladies, I really like and admire running for positions on our local school board. I see Aiden's school principal being unfailingly kind and grateful to the people around her. I see my husband stopping to help someone in a parking lot get their car started. I see my eleven year old trying to fix his friend's watch because she was upset by the break.  I see people react to these things with amazement, joy, and hope, and I can't help but see that they are changing things.

This can be useful to keep in mind as we look around us and see a world which we want to change.  If you want a more compassionate world, be compassionate. Be kind, especially in public, because humans in a group mimic each other by and large. Speak up and say something kind when others are spreading ignorance and meanness. Buy coffee for the person behind you (take a look at this if you don't believe me). Hold the door for someone else; offer to help when someone is struggling.  Put your change in the tip jar when you buy lunch. Haul the neighbor's trash bin back up their driveway after the garbage truck comes. Thank people when they are kind to you.  Introduce yourself to new parents on the first day of school.  Whatever acts you choose will work. Perform tiny acts of kindness over and over again and you will see behaviors change.  It won't happen immediately, but it will happen.  

If we all start doing this, rather than complaining about how rude and awful things are, we will influence all the people around us, and they in turn, influence other people.  Viral behavior is real, and it works. We can use to our advantage and change the societies we live in if we keep modelling the behavior we want to see, not just to children, but to our entire society.  Stop reacting, and start creating!


  1. I love this post. I want to leave my world better, in my own small way, in my own small sphere. What a good reminder. Thank you.

  2. I have to constantly remind myself, but every once in a while, I see the difference I'm making. Cheers!


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