Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Force for Good...

Grandma on the left, GG on the right.
If I have my dates correct, today marks the fifth anniversary of my great aunt GG's passing. Today I thought about my great aunt as well as my grandma. The two of them were so close, you rarely saw one without the other. It has been almost fourteen years since I saw my grandma, five since I saw GG, but I can still remember their voices. I remember the grip of their hands on mine. I can recall their love a good story and a great pair of Birkenstocks. If you needed to know the gossip going around their small town, you could head to their auction building on Sundays and someone there would fill you in. In the years before social media, that's where you found out what was what. That being said, I also never heard them tear anyone down. I never saw them be unkind to another. They owned their mistakes, just as their owned their success. They were believers in hard work, the importance of family, and doing the right thing.

They were a force for good in their community.

This week I've wondered what is to be gained from social media. That's saying a lot, coming from me. I have been a fan of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for years. (Snapchat's allure alludes me, although I do have an account.) By giving everyone a voice, we've devalued our words to some extent. Words are powerful. Our message is powerful. What we put out there into the world creates a perception about who we are. I don't think of myself as a luddite, but I'm beginning to wonder if it was better when I didn't know what everyone thought. When I didn't have to watch people tear apart someone, or something, without the whole story. When I didn't see vitriol spewed forth as it was equal to the truth. 

Before anyone worries, none of this negativity has been directed at me, I'm just sitting alongside many, watching it pour forth in my community, in my state, in my country, and wondering where my place is.

I've tried so hard in the years that I've lived my life online to be what I think my grandmother and GG would be proud of - to be a force for good. There is, of course, the negative side of teaching, of living in a small community, of being a parent to two boys, and on and on and on. I could choose to share that. I could tear others apart when they do something I don't approve of. I could run to Facebook and Twitter when I see something I think of as wrong, but I'm not sure where that will get me except in a world where I only look for the negative, where I see myself as the judge and the jury of what is right and what is wrong. I choose not to dwell in that world. 

Instead, I will continue to find joy in the everyday. I will recognize that most of us are trying our best. That we all can screw up, apologize, and work to do better. That we all would be happier if we just look for the small moments of good. 

Today my students were beautiful. They shared their books, writing, and lives with me. I'm honored to be there for that. We talked about the importance of read aloud in middle school. Today parents sent me sweet words about how I impacted their teen this year. They thanked me, but I should thank them. They too are choosing to lift others up instead of tearing down. I see that and I celebrate it.

I tell my boys constantly that what they send out into the world comes back to them. They can choose to be a force for good, to be a positive person, to make a difference through kindness. I hope they follow that advice. It worked for my grandma and GG. And, when I remember to turn away from the stream of negativity, it works for me.