Of diapers, doors, and more: trying to live kindly
I do certain things hoping that they will make the world a little better, or at least… less bad. But I also worry a lot. For example: if it takes a lot of water for me to wash a peanut butter jar before recycling it, does that counteract the benefit of recycling? If I give money to someone on the street, what if they’re using it to buy drugs?
To borrow the title of a lovely blog about these kinds of questions, I often find myself in a state of conscientious confusion. I’m trying not to get so confused that my conscience is disabled, but also not to forget how complicated important issues can be. Here are a couple of little things that I try to do and hope make a difference:
(1) Using cloth diapers as much as possible. Way easier than I expected, and gentle on Liam’s tender tush, the environment, and our wallets.
(2) Holding doors for people. I’m amazed at how often people on the campus where I teach and study let heavy doors nearly close on the next person. I try to hold doors when someone’s behind me (male or female).
(3) Saying thank you. I used to have a bad habit of apologizing excessively. I’ve tried to reprogram myself to express gratitude instead–whenever remotely possible. This habit does double duty: it lets other people feel good about what they’ve done and it puts me in a grateful, positive frame of mind.
(4) Recycling. Even if it’s inefficient or even ineffective because our systems aren’t up to snuff, I want Liam to grow up thinking about what we waste, what we reuse, and what we recycle.
(5) Noticing people and smiling. I move through a lot of crowded spaces–school halls, grocery stores, libraries–and it’s easy to think of people as obstacles to where I want to be. Instead, I try to really see them, smile at them, and remember that they’re in the middle of their own busy day, too. This little mental game makes me a lot more patient–and it makes me feel connected and positive about the people around me.