Events in a few worlds lead me to write a few words about how we treat each other.
I think it was my wife who first brought nextdoor.com to my attention. The headline on the site’s about page says:
By bringing neighbors and organizations together, we can cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighborhood they can rely on.
I don’t spend much time on the site, but I do get notifications from it, which will bring me to view a thread once in a while. A few weeks ago, someone expressed dismay at seeing signs in their neighborhood saying, and I quote “F___ Biden”. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the sign actually says. I think there are probably actual letters where the quote had underbars, and I’m rather certain that I can guess what they are.
If you have been paying attention to the world, you can guess the tone and style, and even content, of some of the replies to this concern. Words like “cancel culture” and “socialism” were bandied about.
A bit later on the site, someone expressed concern because some posts to the site were being removed by the moderators. The OP was “alarmed” that this was happening. Here again, the replies were interesting.
I am pleased to say that at least some people remarked that calling names was not appropriate to the site, and that a “certain level of decorum” was called for. I am less pleased to say that other posts actually referred to the present administration as “fascist”, which seems to me to be a case of the Model T calling the dark brown Pinto black. Or something. But that’s not why I’m here.
I actually decided to post a thought on the site, and I’ll quote it here:
It seems to me that a fundamental purpose of “Nextdoor” might be to remind us that we are all neighbors, all living in the same world, all in this together. It might even be about helping others who need it, with advice or even a helping hand. And, in my view, caring about others should not be modified by their party, their skin color, their money. If Nextdoor hopes to create friendly neighborhoods, it makes sense to me that they would try to moderate the discussions. And the word is apt: to keep the discussions MODERATE. As for me, it makes me sad to see people spewing hatred at each other over matters like who they voted for or what kind of flag they have in their yard. I think we’ll find that if our posts here are kind, respectful, and helpful, they’ll stay up. To me, that is as it should be.
I was pleased to receive 12 likes and a friendly comment in response, and zero direct attacks. So that’s nice.
Other amazing notions appeared. Someone said there was an increase in crime across the country, due to defunding the police. Of course the word “woke” appeared a lot. I saw zero serious questions asked from one “side” to the other. I saw nothing that seemed like an attempt to engage folks in a serious and reasonable discussion.
This lead-in is taking too many words, given the few useful ones that I hope to offer, but I must mention one, no, two other sources.
I spend some time in a virtual world. In that world, there is a place for newcomers to visit and learn, and the people who run it are very focused on helping new residents of the world find their place in it and enjoy it. They have a fair number of rules for their area, no weapons, no nudity, and so on. But one member of their leadership summed it all up in a quote the other day, and I really liked it. She said that their rules come down to this:
Be kind, be respectful, be helpful.
You’ll see that I quoted those words in my note to NextDoor, and it was no accident that I did so.
The other source was one of those popular lighted signs that churches and schools all seem to have, which I spotted on the way home yesterday. The Shalom Lutheran Church near me had, as one of their flashing messages:
BE KIND …
I can only assume that Shalom Lutheran also frequents Second Life. Or perhaps it’s just a case of GMTA. But seriously, this is the point I want to make:
Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Helpful
Now I’ll be the first to say, at least in this article, that I do not always feel terribly respectful to people who’d post a F Biden, or a F Trump sign, or who would verbally assault someone weaker than them for wearing a mask, or who would cynically argue against mask-wearing and vaccination, while being fully vaccinated themselves and abiding by distancing guidelines and such.
If I am in any business, which my income makes clear I am not, it is the business of helping people to change their minds. That’s not to say that I want people to think the same things I think, or do the same things I do. Many of the things I think and do are not worthy of emulation. I hope that some are worthy. I see my “job” as describing what I do, why I do it, what happens when I do it, and why I think that happened. I even try to show that based on what happens, I try to change what I do to get more of what I want.
It has taken me most of a century to figure out that if that’s what I want to do, it’s very useful first to be kind and respectful, and then, possibly, to be helpful. And I offer my belated thanks to the many people who have tried to help me see that.
Someone said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, and while that’s evocative, I think there’s a bit of truth on the other side of the question. It’s all our behavior, our dance through life, that affects what happens around us.
As I look at what happens around me, there are things I like to see, and things I do not. I spoke above about many things that I don’t like to see, and some things that I do like to see. One thing is clear to me, and that is that I prefer to see people being, and acting, happy. And honestly, I don’t think someone with a F___ Someone sign in his yard is happy. I’m sure they aren’t acting happy.
I try to be hopeful that if we put out more kindness, more respect, and more helpfulness, the world will give back more of those things. It seems to me to be more likely to work than the opposite.
So it took a long time to get here, but I think the bottom line is worth it:
Be kind, be respectful, be helpful.