Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Bombing, the Fertilizer plant in Texas; all these events and others like them can make the world seem like a dark place full of sorrow and misery. However, I spent all last week trying to show my campus that is not the truth. The world can be a wonderful place full of amazing people but it is up to us to make it that way.
Last week, I spent the week promoting nothing but happiness on campus. To do this we gave out memories such as Happy Mondays (see picture above), free sweets, free hugs, and more. Yes, to some people who this was weird but most people loved it. Numerous people told us that we made their day and almost everyone smiled as they walked by even if they didn’t want a free hug. This taught me a very important lesson: each and every one of us has the power to change the world every day of our lives. That is something amazing. So many people talk about how they want to or will change the world one day. What these people don’t realize is that they have the power to change the world today.
Who wouldn’t want a hug from this guy?
You do not need to reinvent the wheel or start a million dollar non-profit organization to change the world. All that needs to be done is a random acts of kindness. Pay for the person in line behind you, wish the worker, the one you see every day but never actually talk to, a great day, or maybe give a stranger a hug (don’t just run up and try to hug someone though, they may thing you are attacking them). Now maybe you won’t change the entire world with one of these simple acts but that shouldn’t stop you from changing the entire world for one person. You never know how your act could affect someone. The person who is the recipient of your random act of kindness could be having a terrible day. They could be on the brink of a break down. With your act though, it could turn their day upside down and completely change their mood. This could cause them to pass on the kindness to someone else and with this we can change the world.
People always talk about how the world is such a terrible place. They say people suck and that everyone is out to help themselves and that is it, but they do not do anything about it. Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” People need to stop complaining about the world and start changing it. I understand that it may seem hard to comprehend how a slip of paper could change the world but, from experience, I know it can make a difference. To me it seems to be a shame to let the power we have to go to waste. Start off small, start with friends. Buy your friend a coffee or write them a letter of application. Hand out kindness and pass on the kindness you receive because whether it is on a mass scale or one person at a time, you can change the world.
The other day I failed. It was not a big failure but it was still a failure. I was helping a friend move her stuff out of her dorm. In the process, I broke her mirror. I did not shatter it but there was a crack along the bottom. However, as you can see in the picture, it was a large body mirror and if you held it with the crack on the bottom you almost could not notice it. Even though the crack was not too bad, my friend did not want it anymore. I was on my way to the garbage to throw it out and that is when something great happened: I got an idea. I am not sure when or how I got the idea but I just started to do it.
I started with one of my friends. I went up to her, asked her to do me a favor, and told her to look into the mirror. After she looked at herself for a minute I told her to look how beautiful she was. That was the idea. I was going to go up to people and show them how beautiful they were. Yes, it is incredibly corny but I love to be incredibly corny. Mostly, I did it to my friends and people I knew because I did not want to look like a creep. However, I did it to some random people and no one thought I was a creep. They all loved it from what I could tell.
There were two lessons I learned from this project I started. The first lesson was about failure. Although it was not the biggest failure, I was able to turn my failure into something great that made other people’s days, or at least I hope it did. Now contrary to popular believe I do not think you can always learn something or get something from failure. Most of the times you can get some benefit from failure but sometimes you just crash and burn. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about failure but if you try to see value in your failure, something great can happen like with my mirror.
The second lesson I learned was about the power of the little things. I have two goals for every day of my life: to make the most of my day and to make someone else’s day. I am still working on how to do the first part but I try to do the second part through random acts of kindness. The mirror project is just one of those ways. Carrying around a mirror telling people they are beautiful seems pretty random to me but that’s the point. I try to do things that people do not normally experience that could make their day; the little things. Maybe it is just smiling at someone or having a conversation with someone who not a lot of people talk to. It does not matter what it is as long as it puts a smile on their face; that is what the important part is.
I am going to do my mirror project again someday. I do not know when but I know that I will not use a different mirror. The crack in my mirror will be a symbol of my failure and will always remind me to find the best in my failures. The mirror itself will always be there to remind me to make other people’s days.
I failed but I did not crash and burned. The next time when you break a mirror are you going to sit there and soak up your seven years of bad luck or are you going to use that mirror to make people’s days?
Most people only like to do something if it has some benefit to them, it is only natural. I am sure that if you think about it, most of the things you do benefit yourself in some way. You go to class to get an education to, hopefully, get a good job. You go to work to get money for things you enjoy, and bills. You go to the gym to get/stay healthy or look good. These are all pretty obvious but everything we do gives us some sort of benefit or else we would not do it.
Let’s take one of the most selfless things I can think of: volunteering. People volunteer for many reasons; they like to help others, they feel it is their duty as a good (insert religion here), or usually it is required by some program such as school. No matter what the reason there is always a benefit to the volunteer. This benefit can come in the form of meeting a requirement or maybe it just makes the person feel good because they enjoy it (yes, a lot of people actually enjoy volunteering). The point is that even with one of the most selfless things, we feed our self-interest.
So how can we put our self-interest aside? The answer is we cannot. We are all human and therefore are worry about our self-interest whether we know it or not. However, what we can do is recognize this and try to put interest of others first. I am not saying to always put others first because the truth is we need to worry about ourselves or we can end up being miserable people who cannot help anyone. However, we should always know how our actions will affect others and realize when we are doing something just for ourselves. A good example of this is something that I always do and really need to work on. A lot of times I will text someone who I am not really close with (you know that person we only talk to when we need something) and ask for a favor. I often only say a few things before I ask for the favor because I am only worried about my self-interest. I want this to stop and I do not want to know anyone that I can refer to as someone I only go to when I need something.
We should all think a little bit more about others before ourselves. We do not need to be Mother Teresa to do this, we just need to change the way we interact with people. Next time you go into an office to ask a question, why not ask the person at the desk how their day is going. It only takes a little extra time and it could really make their day. They might even give you a little extra help because you put their interests before your own (see always going back to our self-interest it is inevitable), but that should not be the motivation for doing it. Thinking about others a bit more with little things like this can have a major impact on your life and happiness but more importantly the happiness of those around you.
I am going to start to make little changes like asking people how their day is going, what kind of changes will you make?