Thursday, 29 September 2011

A World Without Jerks?

Generally speaking, we're a bunch of jerks. We really are. I don't know if it's because I've experienced a terrible couple of incidents over the last few hours, but right now, I've got a general distaste for humanity.

A few months back I noticed a new ad campaign become prevalent on TTC billboards in Toronto. The campaign, featuring simple graphics and text, is part of this movement encouraging people to do good. It's called the People For Good project.

When I first stumbled across it, I couldn't help but smile, because I thought, "Wow! Here's a group of people who truly want to do well by this world. What a refreshing use of ad space!"

As time went by I began to notice more of these posters, and not just on the TTC anymore. The campaign had spread to the street, stores, and to bus shelters across the city.

I never really thought Toronto was a bad city, you know? I never thought it was filled with people who turn to anger before kindness, and selfishness over simple human consideration. I mean, I understood the point of the campaign, but I didn't think we needed to be reminded of it everywhere we went... to choose good.

But after my experiences this evening hit a boiling point, I realized just how essential it was. The sad reality is that we NEED to be reminded to do good. To be good. To choose good.

Today was a good day. After a stream of not-so-good days, I welcomed the end of my working hours, and headed to to the subway for my daily ride home. I stopped off to pick up my October metro-pass at the TTC booth, and after paying with my debit card, I asked the collector for a receipt. This request was met with a series of angry remarks from him, along with demeaning comments at a very loud tone:

"You already have your debit receipt!"

"You already have a receipt in your hand, why do you need another one? Can't you see what's already in your hand?"

"What the hell is wrong with you? Are you stupid? Woman, just get out of here!" 

My request was simple: I asked him to provide me with an additional receipt to go along with my purchase, because another TTC employee had informed me in previous months, that this was needed for my own accounting purposes. But the employee from today's incident didn't want to hear it. Instead of explaining it to me simply, or asking me for my reason, he chose to yell and humiliate me in front of a growing line of customers.

If I didn't need an additional receipt, he simply had to tell me. If he didn't understand my request, he simply had to ask me. There was no need to yell.

Anyway, I walked away feeling about two feet tall, and completely embarrassed. All because I made a simple request. And for the record, I always pay with my debit card, and when I ask for a receipt, other TTC employees always provide a written one... that includes their signature and employee number.

*Deep Breath*

So suffice to say, my good day did a 180 and turned utterly horrible from this single incident. An incident that could have been avoided with simple customer service (that the TTC prides itself in delivering), active listening and understanding.

Then, while I was getting on the train, I saw a young man standing in the doorway while people were trying to get on. He was blocking the entrance, and making people walk around him, while he stood there with his backpack.

After a number of people squeezed through, one older man said, "Do you mind moving in a bit please? There's people trying to get on."

This simple comment made the young man so angry. The audacity that someone asked him to move in and show some consideration to the people trying to get on the train.

He smirked and responded  with, "Show some respect! Why do you care where I stand?"

Really? Show some respect? You're saying this to an older man who is asking you to show some consideration. The way I see it, you and your 15-year-old self have a lot to learn about respect. And of course he cares where you stand. We all do! Especially when where you choose to stand is making it difficult for other people to get into the train.

Most days, I just really don't understand people.

And then I got to thinking about this campaign. Wow! How desperately do we need it? How desperately do we need to be reminded that life doesn't have to move at a thousand miles a minute? That we don't need to be so quick to jump to judgment. That a wee bit of understanding can make such a huge difference in situations, and in life all together.

What's to gain out of being mean? All you're doing is hurting someone else. I understand that some situations warrant quick wit and rebuttal, because let's face it -- some people deserve what's coming to them. But in everyday behaviour? What do we have to gain by being rude? Unless you're some sort of sadist who thrives on the misfortune of others and from making people feel beneath you. If that's the case, I feel sorry for you. Life is about so much more than sitting on a high chair and looking down your nose at people.

There's something to be said about really connecting with people. About listening. About paying attention to things that don't necessarily involve you. About having points in your day, week, month, where you choose selflessness and kindness.

Doing good and seeing the reaction you get from your actions -- the smiles, the aura that changes from one of darkness and doom to hopefulness? There's nothing quite like it. It fills your soul and it becomes contagious.

So try it. Choose good. Do good. And watch how the wave spreads and takes over humanity. There really is no catch.

Call me a hopeless optimist, but I truly believe (down to my toes) that it's possibl/

Images Courtesy of Google Images

Sunday, 11 September 2011

9/11 - You May Say I'm a Dreamer

"You may say I'm a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one.
I hope some day you'll join us.
And the world will live as one."
- John Lennon

A lot of people have spent today reflecting on their whereabouts exactly 10 years ago. Almost everyone can perhaps remember where they were, and what they were doing when they found out the twin towers in New York City had come down, as the result of a terrorist attack.

Me? I was one week into my grade 11 year in high school. I can't quite remember which class I was in while it was happening, but I do remember where I was when I found out. Our second period English teacher had been called away with the rest of the staff for an 'emergency meeting.' When she came back into the classroom, she looked pale and obviously shaken up. She, then, choosing the best words she could muster given the situation, proceeded to tell us that there was an 'attack' in New York City, and that we wouldn't be on a regular schedule for the rest of the day. Little did I realize that the schedule I'd known up until that point, would never be the same again. Not for me. Not for the rest of the world.

2001 was a pivotal year in my life. I turned 16 that summer, to a lot of chaos, both personally, and externally. I never realized that the events of that year would have ramifications so far into the future.

I'm not going to go into details about my thoughts on the fact that this tragedy has resulted in more wars and hate crimes in our world. But suffice to say, I don't think we've learned anything since the tragedy that was 9/11. That, in and of itself, is it's own kind of tragedy.

I do believe, however,  that a new generation with a new understanding has emerged -- one that strives for peace, and is fueled by hope. It's inspiring.

But there are still a lot of people in power -- the decision makers and influencers -- who are choosing not to promote change for the better. They're encouraging hate in political platforms, and are drawing lines among citizens who should be working together for the common good. They're promoting fear, when they should be encouraging hope and love.

Call me dramatic, but this is just how I see it right now. I sometimes catch the broadcasts on conservative news networks, and get goosebumps. I can't believe people are allowed to stand on their soapboxes and say the things they do. It's all so heartbreaking.

Here's my hope.

I'm hoping that 10 years from now, we'll be able to look back as a world that's managed to piece itself together. That we're encouraging peace and taking the time to break down walls. That we're teaching our children to think and act with love in their hearts, rather than hate. And that our priorities remain more focused on engaging in discourse where we're actually listening to each other, instead of focusing on getting the last word.

It might be a tall order, but a girl can imagine, right?

I'd like to end this post with one of my favourite singers, Neil Young, performing a tribute cover of John Lennon's iconic song, Imagine.

Here's wishing you, dear readers, lots of love and peace, from my heart to yours.

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