John F. Kennedy once quoted: “…every American is made better off whenever any one of us is made better off. A rising tide raises all boats.” It is the opposite of the cultural attitude that suggests that if one is lifted up, it must be at the expense of another.
So much of life seems to be about lowering the tide. The 24 hour news machine needs negative and divisive stories to drive clicks. Social media provides platforms for critics, naysayers, and trash talkers. If we’re not simply wasting precious time, we are likely left feeling frustrated or even empty.
We can be left feeling like there isn’t anything we can do about anything. But what if, after catching up on big picture issues, we take inventory of what we can affect. At some point we must turn to the life we have in front of us. What DO we have control over and how can we help someone be better off today? What if we just went about our day raising the tide?
When I went back to work at a home and garden store in our town, I had already done the career thing. At this season, I just wanted to be with people and make a difference in whatever small way I could.
One day a woman, who I would guess to be around 80, approached the registers and told the two of us standing there to “break it up and get to work.” She said it with a smile and I loved her immediately. As I was finishing up, I told her that I was sure she made people happy just being with her. Tears began trickling down her face.
We have no idea how much we can affect change in our everyday lives. A simple “You OK?” to a coworker, or “I love the colors you put together” to a customer can lift a mood. I am always surprised at how easy it really is and how it always lifts us along with the other.
And while there is obviously a time and place for arguing issues, mostly it is not the time nor the place. A question maybe we can each ourselves is this: Are my words raising the tide or draining the water? Those words falling out of our mouths matter.
I read the following quote the other day and it impacted me deeply. We have strayed far from the notion of “holy” because organized religion has distorted it and made it offensive. It can also feel, at times, that the ugly has overtaken the holy. No matter, it is still a beautiful truth.
“We have so little of each other, now. So far from tribe and fire.
Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy,
these fleeting temples we make together when we say,
‘Here, have my seat,’ ‘Go ahead–you first,’ ‘I like your hat.’