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Highest Expression of Humanity

I've come to a sad conclusion as of late, and it's one that I thought would change after four years since a global pandemic. Apparently, it's not only not changed, it's only gotten worse. Okay, here it is: We've become an incredibly selfish civilization as of late, and people just don't care anymore. Especially this current generation, and even my millennial generation is guilty of this. We've forgotten what it means to actually think, empathize, and understand one another's needs and concerns because we're just too damn selfish. And it's not pretty to see this on a regular basis. Think about it: We're so engrossed with our phones - texting, looking at the latest TikTok videos, going into chat rooms, playing video games, streaming films and television shows - we forget that there are people around us, even a whole world around us that could stand to be looked at and observed better than this. Children, particularly teenagers, are running their mouths, not dressing appropriately, causing trouble with the law, and even gossiping behind the backs of other students they encounter in schools. They're not putting in the effort to work hard or make their life meaningful, other than living through their phones and gossiping and just plain being rude. We've become too critical on pointing out other people's flaws and what they look like, judge their political views, and even laugh when we try to share differing opinions on topics that shouldn't be so seemingly divisive. "Agree to disagree" is no longer in the code of having a nice conversation. We want things to be fast and in a hurry, not stopping to smell the flowers or enjoy the fresh air when we sorely need it (especially the way our planet is warming up at alarming proportions and the seasons are becoming less and less evident). Somehow, we as a society have forgotten to do the one thing that Harriet Beecher Stowe said in a quote: "Caring for others is the highest expression of humanity." That's right: We've forgotten how to CARE. Not just for ourselves... But each other. I think the worst example of this would have to be in my neck of the woods, and it's not politics this time. Nope. I'm talking about fare evasion. Hold your horses; I'm getting to the crux of this week's post. Fare evasion is defined as the act of traveling without payment on public transit. When considered problematic, this is mitigated by revenue protection officers and ticket barriers - staffed or automatic - to be put in place to ensure only those with valid tickets may access the transport. This is getting out of hand in the Washington, DC, area. But I'm also seeing it in NYC, too. If you have public transportation outside of those areas, I'm sure you're noticing it, too. People are jumping over fare gates (and the barriers, no matter how tall they are), walking behind people who did pay the fare to get in and out of the station, walking past the bus drivers without paying, even running away from police and security guards who catch them not paying the fare. It used to be in Washington, DC, that fare evasion was a crime, but it was decriminalized in 2018 since that vast majority of those evading fares were African Americans. Unfortunately, since the pandemic especially, it has only gotten worse. Even with installing new fare gates, taller fences, and increasing fines, people are still evading fares somehow. And it's getting to a lot of people, including yours truly. I even shook my head at one fare evader as I was entering the metro one night. This was getting out of hand, and not enough is being done to address it. I've just about had it. I've just about had it with people not caring about the consequences of their actions, whether that's evading fares, going to work while sick, or even not being respectful in conversations that can or shouldn't be divisive. I think we as a society have forgotten how our actions, no matter how big or small, can have consequences for others. And it's all because of how selfish we are and how much we've forgotten to care for one another. But that's got me thinking: Maybe it's not so much about caring for others that's gotten me so hot under the collar, but how we're caring and what we care about. Perhaps we put our focus on caring on the wrong things and the wrong people, and in doing so, that can have just as much of a negative consequence for humanity than we realize. This is one post that I know may have a lot observations and thoughts on, but it's also one that I care about sharing with all of you. Because if we stop caring for each other, and put emphasis on the things we should care about, even have to care about, we're all doomed.


What does "caring" mean, exactly? Well, the dictionary defines it as: Feeling or showing of concern for or kindness to others. Demonstrating genuine empathy. You want to ensure their well-being. You put others' needs before your own. Here are some ways we could care for each other: You bring some hot soup or a home cooked meal for someone who's sick or sad. You check in with someone who's having a bad day with a text or by just listening to them. You hold the door open for someone who has a lot of bags in their hands and can't open the door for themselves. You give up the free seat next to you when you're on public transportation, or help someone who's in a wheelchair get situated safely when on the bus or train. You help someone smile or laugh with funny stories (or even heartfelt stories). You treat a good friend or colleague to lunch or happy hour after accomplishing a big project together, or even just because. You help your child tie their shoes so they don't trip on their own two feet. You pack your child's lunch with good foods to eat at school. You write a letter to your grandparents or friends who live far away to show how much you miss them and want them to know what's going on. You help someone in the bathroom stall have toilet paper when their stall is out (yes, it has been known to happen). You help someone get to where they need to go when they're riding the metro for the first time. And the list goes on and on. You basically, for a moment, (or however long it may be) put aside your needs and make sure someone else is okay, and do everything in your power to ensure that they have everything they need to make it through the day, even if it's just a listening ear and an empathetic heart. And it doesn't have to be anything flashy or boastful. You don't need to post this on social media so that the whole world has to see (but in this day and age, a little bit of caring for the world to see goes a long way!). But here's something that's the most important about caring: It doesn't take a break. It shouldn't need to take a break, even. We have to care about others on some level 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24/7 (but not when you're trying to sleep! That might cause some problems.). One important detail about caring for others, and it's one I shared in recent blog posts: You can't care for others if you don't care for yourself first. (You can't give from an empty cup.) And that's especially true if you're going through a rough time. You need to make sure you have the basic necessities for the day: Rest, nourishment, water, strength, and plenty sunshine and fresh air. And it may take as long as you can to get to a point where can fully care for others, or even give as much as 50% of caring for others because there are days when you can't always give 100%. You need to ensure that you can be at the best you can give day in and day out in order to help others, and sometimes, being able to make sure you get the extra rest, strength, and basic needs met can take much longer than what others anticipate it taking. Caring for you doesn't mean an extended selfishness on others, though. You shouldn't blow others off if they're concerned for your well-being. You shouldn't stop helping others if they're also going through a rough time. Even if you can't give 100%, that doesn't mean you shouldn't stop caring at all... about others or yourself. You matter to us, as does every person in this world. And if you stop caring about yourself, flaws and all, you might as well just give up on life because of how hardened you made your heart by not caring about yourself anymore. Yes, life is hard and people can be selfish and cruel. That doesn't mean you have to stoop to their level, though. There's nothing wrong with being soft and strong. Just like there's nothing wrong with caring. And it's okay to take some time to care for yourself in order to rest, heal, and recover so you can care for others, just like it's okay to allow others to care for you so you can continue to care for yourself and others. Caring doesn't have an expiration date, especially for yourself. Be sure to make sure your needs are met before caring for others... And don't go overboard with caring for others, either. As I've said earlier, you matter to us, and you need to make sure that you take the time to nurture and care for your basic needs, and even the ones that may be a little extravagant. Just don't mix up caring for yourself with selfishness and vanity. There's too much of that going around these days, and we can do without both of those things. Really, we can. The Dalai Lama once said this: "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." Maybe that's the problem with caring - we're treating it as a luxury, and not just the basic need that help us go through our day-to-day life. And to make things worse, we're using caring as a luxury for the wrong things. You're probably wondering what I mean by that. Well, let's go back to our fare evasion example. People who evade the fare are only caring about themselves and how much they believe they have the right, illegal as it may be, to ride the metro for free and don't take into account the consequences they have for others, which involves potentially increasing the fare, having more police at the stations and on trains, and even setting bad examples for young children. Not only that, they are probably doing all types of vandalism on public transportation and being disruptive (i.e. leaving their trash on the train, putting graffiti on the seats and windows, blaring their music a little too loudly, etc.), not giving up their free seat for those in need, or even being belligerent for no reason. They view showing compassion for other's well-being as something they can't afford, just like they believe they can't afford to pay for the fare to ride the metro because it's too expensive to care for others. They only think and care about themselves, not realizing that their selfishness is piling up a big debt that many of us have to pay - and one that we didn't ask for, mind you. (Think higher fares, more security and police at the stations, messy trains, you get the idea.) Or, you can think of caring as a luxury in another way: Wearing face masks. Ever since the pandemic, some people are still wearing face masks for a variety of reasons, primarily to do with health. It was especially a requirement during the pandemic when we all had to wear masks and socially distance ourselves to keep one another safe. But, alas. Some people thought that looking out for one another's health is too steep a price to pay for their own needs. So, they walked around inside buildings and didn't wear face masks, and became belligerent when they were asked to wear a mask. They, and only they, believed they had the right to breathe air inside and it was too much to wear a mask for however long they were going to be inside. They went on as if nothing had changed and went to places where viruses ran rampant, like concerts or sporting events. And when they returned home, they unknowingly (or in some sick case, knowingly) spread the virus to others, including those who are at the highest risk of potentially ending up hospitalized or even dying. They didn't believe in the science of face masks and came up with their own excuses for not wearing them, like something that could be just as deadly having a higher death toll than a tiny virus. Or even that face masks don't work at all because they still got sick and were betrayed by the science. People who don't like wearing face masks during the height of the pandemic didn't believe that having genuine empathy for another's needs should be free. Every time they thought they should care, it comes at a price, and one that's too high for them to pay. For them, they think that caring costs something, and for their own comfort (or discomfort), that's too much for them to handle. Are you starting to see the pattern here? And it's not only in these things that I'm pointing out here. Caring as a luxury can be found just about everywhere: It can be someone demanding to have their coupon honored despite it being past the timeframe, and not showing compassion for the poor employee just doing their jobs. It can be someone deliberately not washing their hands before they handle food or even washing their hands after coming out of the bathroom, and not taking into account someone who is immunocompromised who just wants to be okay. It can be someone who comes into work sick, despite being told to stay home, because they only care about the money and won't take into account how their germs can spread to others and put a lot of people out of commission. It can be belittling your child or a complete stranger for how they dress, talk, or even where they stand, not realizing that it's how their culture is represented in how they dress and talk, or even seeing that those actions can be taught and instilled if children if a parent is doing all of the belittling. It can be someone on social media constantly harassing or shaming someone for having an opinion that's different from theirs, not seeing how much agreeing to disagree is just as important as proving you're right and it's the only way to be. It can be taking on a bunch of tasks and a heavy workload, not stopping to ask for help or even seeing that doing too much all at once is stressing you, and damaging your mental and emotional health, because it's all for the sake of pleasing others or getting that promotion or getting the big bucks. Truth be told, it can be all of those things and more. The bottom line? When we use caring as a luxury (or if you like desserts, the ice cream to your more important subjects) and not treating it as an essential daily need to help sustain you, keep you grounded, and help you feel good, it not only becomes a problem for others who are just trying make it through the day.. It becomes a problem for ourselves. Because we're too self-centered on our needs. Because we believe that we're the only thing that matters in this world, not anyone else. Because we think we should treat public places, or even the earth, as our home, and not do our part to care for it in a way that's liveable for others. Because we find that people who do need help who aren't like us in looks, mannerisms, or ethnicity are not worth our time because of our own fear. Don't you see? When you make your life all about you, 24/7, 365 days a year, but not take the time to care for others and how your actions can have unintended consequences, it makes life that much harder to live. And it's especially sad to see that there are people out there who find that caring for others is too steep a price to pay for their own comfort, or even gather around others who agree that caring for others should be used sparingly and not be given away for free or even as an essential part of life. Caring should never come at a cost or at the expense of others. It shouldn't have to be a luxury, either. It's a vital part of our lives, and like it or not, caring helps shape who we are as human beings. Sometimes, our hearts grow a bit bigger every time we care for others. The last thing we need out there now is a civilization where the hearts are three sizes too small to care. Well, we can now see the wrong things that we should care about: Primarily, ourselves. But it's disguised as many things stemming from our self-centeredness - Vanity. Selfishness. Greed. Complacency. Egotistic. Impatience. Arrogance. Pride. Chauvinism. Self-absorbed. Ambition. Nonchalance. Resignation.


Bullying.


Oppression. Unkind. Narcissist. Self-serving.


Protection.


Know-it-all. Conceited. Spoiled brat. Superiority. Pompous. Dictatorship. And believe it or not, all of these words stem from a gigantic word that seems to be contagious: FEAR. Whether it's instilled in us as children or we inhabit it on our own, the idea of only caring for ourselves and the one-and-only has always come from a place of fear. The idea that we are the only ones who matter in this world, and anyone else is just a roadblock that needs to be eliminated comes from a rather surprising feeling of not feeling good enough to matter in this world along with everyone else. We have to be good enough in order to matter, or else we don't deserve anything that is given to us or we've worked hard for, even if it's a small thing as kindness. We have to ensure that our lives, our property, and our own fragile ego is the only thing that's worth protecting, even if it's at the cost of losing valuable relationships or losing the very things that should matter to you. We have to do everything in our power to make sure people know that we and only are the only ones that matter in this world, and we can do whatever we want, even if it means others have to pay the price and messing things - like the earth or public property - up so that others don't forget it. Allow me to put this into a language you can understand: STOP BEING SO SELFISH! STOP BEING SO SELF-CENTERED! STOP BEING SO HEARTLESS! STOP CARING ABOUT ONLY YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hate to break this to you, but the world never has, nor ever will, revolve around you. There are more important things to care about in this life, and your precious ego and pride is not one of them. It doesn't give you the right to treat everywhere you walk as if it's your own home - putting your feet up on seats or on the stage, throwing trash out the window or on public transportation and not cleaning up after yourself, or even defacing public property and art works for the world to see. It doesn't give you the right to be inconsiderate to other's needs, like their health (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual), and overall well-being. It doesn't give you the right to just not care about others. You're caring about the wrong things, and maybe it's time you took a hard look at yourself and actually see how being so self-centered is actually damaging your life and your relationships. I can promise you if you don't do this, you will be forced to own up to your selfishness, the easy way, or the hard way. Your choice. (This week's blog post has a lot of observation and reflection as it is something I see on a regular basis, but here's the thing to remember - these are only my observations and reflections. You are welcome to disagree with anything I've said here or in any of my previous blog posts. But one thing I won't abide by is your own selfishness, and that's in the form of offensive language, disrespect, and putting others down because their opinion isn't in line with yours. If you can't do a simple thing like being kind and considerate for others, let alone having a civil conversation, I will block you.)


Well, now that we've gotten all of the wrong things to care about out of the way, let's talk about the right things to care about. And it's pretty simple: Something other than ourselves, often disguised as vanity, pride, ambition, and more from the list I described to you from above. Believe me, there are a TON of things you can care about other than yourself: Like the earth, for instance. You can pick up your trash, recycle plastic, paper, and glass, or even your clothes and shoes, turn off the water when it's running too much, use LED lights, and more. What about riding public transportation? Well, that one's easy - you can give up your free seat to someone who needs it the most or even help those in wheelchairs be properly situated so that they don't go flying when the bus or train is moving. You can also make sure the train and bus is clean by probably not eating or drinking or even smoking on the bus so that those who come on after you have a nice place to sit. Besides, who wants to sit on a dirty bus or train anyway? And what about each other? Well, there are tons of ways to care for others, and it goes beyond what I described earlier. Like wearing masks or giving people their space when they are wearing masks. Like holding the doors for people who need it the most (or even if they don't). Like helping out with directions in the best way possible, even if it means using Apple Maps or Google Maps to get where they need to go. Like giving people their space when they need it the most, but also checking in on them when they need support and encouragement. Like cooking or baking a favorite meal because someone had a bad day. Like giving hugs and kisses to your loved ones when they need the most. Like listening to others venting when they just need to let it out, and being as understanding as you possibly can. Like showing concern when someone you love isn't doing well, and making sure they are okay by having those deep conversations and trying to find solutions that helps everyone. Like letting your children grow up, make mistakes, learn from them, and be the best version of themselves they can be (and not make them carbon copies of yourself). Like making sure your friends get home safely by giving them a lift instead of having them take the metro or even risk them driving behind the wheel drunk by calling an Uber or Lyft. Like ordering your loved ones their favorite takeout from their favorite restaurant, and paying extra for the tip to the restaurant employees. The list is virtually endless. But the bottom line is this: We have to do better about caring about each other. That's the right thing to do. If we care about the wrong things and not give any thoughts to the consequences our selfishness will have on others, we might lose more than our pride and ego. We could lose our jobs, or contracts. We could lose our loved ones and circle of friends. We could lose the only place we've ever known to call home. It's not that hard to figure out that we've got to care for each other, while also seeing that we have to care for ourselves first before we can care for each other. But not to the point of constantly overflowing our cups with our vanity and selfishness and pride. There's more to life than just being self-centered... Or even treating everywhere we go as if it's our home and we can do whatever we want to it because no one else matters. We shouldn't have to let our "young and stupid stage" apply to how we treat others as if they're not important. We've got to learn to live with each other... And caring for one another is a big part of how we can be better human beings, and more importantly, how we can look past our differences and see how much alike we all are. Oh, one more important thing. There's just one thing you shouldn't care about - and that's people's perceptions of you. A big problem with people caring about the wrong things is that they have a tendency to judge others and make them feel inferior for not dressing a certain way, acting a certain way, or having a certain career that's not to their liking. It's a common thing we all do, even yours truly does this. If you constantly care about what other people think, you're only going to burn yourself out and face disappointment every single day. Denzel Washington once said this: "Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons." Accept the fact that not everyone will like you or accept you for who you are, and that's okay. Maybe it's their own demons that's driving them to care about the wrong things, and not even care about others. Who knows? You can only control yourself, not them. And that includes making sure you're proud of who you are and what you're capable of, which may be more than what you realize. There's a big difference in caring about others for their well-being, as opposed to caring about what others think about you and pleasing them. Don't mix them up! And give yourself the grace you need if you do mix them up. We're humans, we're prone to mistakes. One more quote to think about as you go about your weekend and the weeks ahead: "Caring is not just a word; it's an action of the heart." So, open your heart to loving one another and their well-being. Having a closed heart is so yesterday... Or even longer than that, for that matter.

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