We Could Make This Place Beautiful

When we listen to the news – especially the rumors, rants, and outright lies that are so often reported as truth – it's easy to become angry, cynical, and full of despair.

Our world is far from perfect.  There's crime, pollution, disease, hunger, wars and rumors of wars.  There's the insane hatred that leads to terrorism.  And global warming threatens food and water shortages, natural disasters, and the real possibility that life as we know it will become impossible.

Even as we try to make improvements, new problems emerge.  It's as if we're in a boat that has sprung a fatal leak, and no amount of bailing will save us.  Human error and selfishness seem to outweigh our ingenuity and goodwill.

hope is the thing with feathers

The road of hope

So why bother to try?  Why not embrace isolationism, take care of ourselves, and forget about everyone and everything else?  Why not give up and let Armageddon come?

That's the road of no hope.  Those choices let selfishness and evil win.

I reject that option.  I think goodness is stronger.  Love wins.

Never forget all the people who are generous and kind.  Many people love to do good for others.  And the science shows that doing acts of kindness reduces the stress hormone cortisol while boosting serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that cause feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.  When we're kind, we feel useful, competent, valuable.  It increases self-esteem.  Humans are hardwired to enjoy being kind.

It all starts with gratitude.

Many of us live with a scarcity mindset.  We fear not having enough for our happiness, and have thoughts like "There's not enough to go around" and "I never get my fair share."  A scarcity mindset has negative consequences for each of us, and for our society: 

  • anxiety
  • selfishness
  • competitiveness
  • greed
  • hoarding
  • conflict

In contrast, an abundance mindset recognizes that one person's gain doesn't have to mean another's loss.  This attitude recognizes the many benefits we already possess, creating a sense of well-being.  It fosters positive results for everyone:

  • creativity
  • resilience
  • generosity
  • collaboration
  • personal growth
  • shared progress

So how do we develop an abundance mindset?  It starts with gratitude.  When we make a practice of noticing and giving thanks for the good things in our lives, it becomes our habit to see even more blessings to be grateful for.  Gratitude, like kindness, positively affects our brain chemistry so we feel happier and more relaxed, meaning better moods, better sleep, more energy, and even improved blood pressure and increased cognitive function.

A grateful attitude improves relationships.  When we focus on what's right instead of what's lacking, we appreciate our loved ones more.  In the same way a kind act is likely to inspire a kind response, thankfulness can promote mutual appreciation and trust.

The habit of noticing things to be thankful for, especially when we're going through a difficult situation, reminds us that life is worth living.  Learning to pay attention to even the smallest possible benefit develops patience and optimism.  Instead of feeling poor and powerless, we expand our inner resources and become strong.

That's a life of abundance!

Good bones

This makes me think of the poem "Good Bones" by Maggie Smith.  I first heard it read on the CBS TV series Madam Secretary.

... Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children.  I am trying
to sell them the world.  Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real sh*thole, chirps on
about good bones:  This place could be beautiful,
right?  You could make this place beautiful.

The world is a mess, but it didn't start out that way.  It still has "good bones" – something worth preserving and rebuilding.

With an abundance mindset, we have hope that can lead us to a healthier, safer, more just world.  Human ingenuity and goodwill could outweigh our error and selfishness.  Gratitude is the key, and minimalism can make us rich.

We could make this place beautiful.  Gratitude and minimalism can help us get there.


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