by Angela Noel Lawson
December 17, 2018
Last year, I confessed I share my birthday with some pretty heavy hitters, being that I was born on Christmas Day and all. And though I may be entitled to double the gifts, I don’t want “things” for Christmas or my birthday. I want world peace and goodwill towards all (and a vacuum, but that’s a different story).
Since that kind of non-specific request tends to result in loved ones smacking their foreheads in frustration (“Yeah, but what do you want?), I decided to do what I did last year, only different. This time, I created a list of small actions that might not usher in peace for all man and womenkind, but might bring a smile to someone’s face. Smiles, as many as I can get, that’s what I want for Christmas (and my birthday).
You can’t force it. . .
However, before I share my list, I have a quick story. About fifteen years ago my father asked for a peculiar thing for Christmas: He asked me to write him a story. At the time, I chafed at the idea.
Truth be told, I hadn’t written a creative word in years. I graduated college with the dream of becoming a writer. To pursue that goal I’d traveled to a new city, worked at a magazine, and wrote a (bad) novel. I soon realized writing was hard. Really hard. Call it the disillusionment of the quarter-life crises, but I gave up trying to be a writer and instead pursued a “real” job.
This was also around the time I met my now-ex husband. Our life did not allow for creative endeavors. I had put the writer-me in a closet and told her not to come out. So when my dad asked me to write him a story I didn’t want to. “You can’t force it,” I’d told him.
But, despite my protests I did write him that story. It probably wasn’t very good. But the act of writing it, of writing anything creative after so many years away, planted a seed. It would take me a few more years, a series of unfortunate events, and more family members saying, “It doesn’t matter if it’s good! Just write,” before I would write the first draft of a (pretty good) novel.
You see, instead of asking something from me, my father asked something of me. He saw potential in me and didn’t want that spark to die. My dad was and is invested in me and my success. The gift he asked of me was a return on that investment. He wanted, I imagine, to inspire. And he did.
So what does that have to do with my wish list? Well, I’ll tell you: I am invested in this world’s success, in my community’s success, and in the success of every human being who takes the time to read these words. It matters to me that you, that WE, succeed in bringing about a juster, kinder world. I’m asking of you a gift, a small return on that investment. You never know what dividends these things may ultimately pay.
If you do one or more of these things, please share in the comments. First, it feels good to say, “done!” and second, I’d love to hear how it felt to you to just do a little extra something. (I know you do a lot of extra somethings, but it would be awesome to do just one thing more.)
My Wish List
- Buy a co-worker a coffee
- Give someone at work an unexpected (but appropriate) compliment in the hallways
- Send an email of praise about someone’s great work to their boss
- Read anything from Jean Lee’s World
- Send a text to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile
- Let someone with less groceries than you go ahead of you in line
- Think of one small way to make yourself happy today
- Notice something sweet and wonderful and tell others about it
- Notice if you’re about to say something mean or gossipy–then don’t say it
- The next time someone with an opposing point of view offers his or her opinion, seek to understand rather than contradict
- Talk to a fellow rider in an elevator
- Get outside! Check out Must Hike Must Eat, Unbound Roots, A Walk and Lark, and The Mindful Gardner for ideas
- Tip a barista or a waiter with extra cash
- Do a creative something that makes YOU feel good
- Make a list of everything you’re grateful for and keep it handy
- Ask for forgiveness
- Donate a little more than normal to a cause you care about
- Listen to new music or music you might have forgotten, but should remember. Check out M. French or Jocelyn Mackenzie, and Just Another Blog from a Woman
- Smile while you’re driving in traffic
- Take deep”belly breaths” when you feel frustrated
- Be kind to someone who you think has wronged you
- Tell a friend you love him or her
- Read Jeff Cann’s new book Bad Ass: My Quest to Become a Back Woods Trail Runner
Happy Holidays to you and yours. I hope you’ll find something in this list you can and want to do. But, as I learned from my dad, sometimes even if it’s not what I want to do in that moment, thinking of an action as a gift to another can make the effort worthwhile. I thank you in advance for doing one or two extra things to make the world a nicer place for us all. You are awesome.
Your turn: What ideas do you have to make the world a kinder, juster place in the coming year?