See Something Bad, Do Something Good

Consider the following two situations:

  • Sitting outside enjoying a beautiful day, you overhear two people engaging in a political conversation filled with hate, offensive remarks and untruths.
  • Later that day, you are scrolling through your Facebook feed and you see a short video of a little girl, blood running down her face.  She is calling, “Baba”, “Baba”. Looking for her daddy after a missile has just ripped through her neighborhood in Syria.

These scenarios played out within hours of each other recently. In the first, I felt a little mad. In the second, I felt very sad.  In both, while feeling something, I did nothing.

When confronted with bad things in the world, our instinct is to feel more than do. The lack of action can be attributed to many things but is often the result of feeling that our actions just won’t make a difference.  While this feeling is supported by research, the reality is that our actions have more of an impact than we think.

Take, for instance, this recent article in the New York Times, Lessons in the Delicate Art of Confronting Offensive Speech, that said “a body of psychological research shows that even mild pushback against offensive remarks can have an instant effect.”

In the case of the little Syrian girl (who fortunately was reunited with her daddy), we know that people will give more and be more engaged when they imagine their actions helping one child not millions of children.

All around us, we see things that make us feel all kinds of negative emotions.  It can be numbing. Activist, Umi Selah, told me, “What does it say when we scroll through our newsfeed and literally see someone innocently killed and yet do nothing?”  I often wonder what I will say when my children are grown and ask what I did about the election or Syria or climate change or any number of issues that impact their lives because not enough people turned feeling into action.
To that end, I’m carving out some time to volunteer at a phone bank to engage in the election, signing a few petitions on for Syria and making a donation today to How much of a difference will this make, I don’t know. But at least I can tell my children I did something.

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