Do No Harm

The first lesson I learned from this pandemic was the importance of self-care.  Adding a bouquet of flowers to my cart when I’m grocery shopping, taking the time to re-read a favorite book, or just putting on make-up even when I know no one is going to see it underneath my face mask, can work wonders on my spirit.   Keeping as many of my normal routines as possible and indulging in the little things that bring me joy are great coping mechanisms that make this whole situation so much more bearable.

But while the benefits of self-care may have been the first lesson I learned, it isn’t the most important one.  Yes, taking care of myself as best I can, both emotionally and physically, is a very good thing.  But what’s even more important right now is remembering to also take care of other people–those who are close to me and even the people I don’t know at all.  Because the truth is we’re all feeling very stressed these days, so anything and everything we can do to help each other isn’t just appreciated, it’s also necessary.

Sadly, many people seem to be taking their anger and frustration out on each other, in either direct or indirect ways.  Memes on social media that ridicule or chastise people we disagree with are becoming more common and more vicious.  I see examples of selfish driving (blowing through red lights, cutting off other drivers, etc.) and sometimes even road rage almost every time I’m in my car.  Those of us who still read newspapers can’t help but notice that the letters to the editor almost all seem angry and full of accusations, but very short on actual solutions.

All this is doing is making a bad situation even worse.  Now is not the time to pour gasoline on the burning fires of our collective frazzled nerves.  Now is the time to offer the cooling waters of patience, wisdom, and most of all, compassion.  And no gesture is too small to make a difference.  We never know what’s going to turn the tide for someone else and make them feel a little less stressed or a little less alone.  It can be as simple as a smile from a stranger, or an offer to let someone with only a few items go ahead of you in the check out line.  These days, people need to see evidence of the positive side of human nature as often as they can.

DSC01258And the best part is, when we make the decision to try to help someone else cope with these crazy times, we discover that we’re also helping ourselves.  Doing even a small act of kindness makes us feel less powerless and more hopeful because it reminds us that we have the ability to make a positive impact on others.

Hard times have always brought out both the worst and the best in people.  But I believe that when we are intentional about being our best selves, we usually find that the times don’t seem quite so hard.

89 thoughts on “Do No Harm

    • Exactly! What can seem like a small gesture to us can make all the difference to someone else. Which is why we need to make sure that our gestures are always kind…. Thanks for the comment!

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  1. Kindness is invaluable now. I tried to be kind today but was met with a “what’s it to you?” and “I don’t care.” I tried nonetheless. I suppose as long as I’m trying – it isn’t my problem if people don’t want help or my parking spot…

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    • Exactly! I’m sorry your efforts were rebuffed, but the important thing is that you tried. And you never know, maybe the other person was just so distracted that what you were trying to do didn’t really sink in until too late. I’ve had that happen to me….I blew someone off because I was preoccupied, and then when I thought about it later and realized what had actually been offered, I though “dang, I wish I could have a do-over!” So, it may have helped, even in retrospect.

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  2. When I watch the news and think of the post you wrote today, it sounds like the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness: “Now is the time to offer the cooling waters of patience, wisdom, and most of all, compassion.” Perhaps some will listen. That is my hope and my prayer, Ann.

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  3. Taking care of yourself is important for mental and physical well-being.
    I suppose I’ve been lucky that I have not seen people taking their frustrations out on others – except on TV. Which is why I wish the media would quit giving rowdy, selfish people so much air-time.

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    • I know! I’ve seen both the good and the bad, and honestly, more good. But the media does focus on the bad, and on all the ways we are divided. If we looked at the world only from their point of view, we’d all be depressed and disturbed, all the time!

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    • Oh, thank you! And it’s a shame that we can’t use this experience as a way to grow together. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be happening for everyone. But I guess if it happens to just some of us, then that’s something to be grateful for. I know this pandemic has taught me many things (not all good), but some of it’s lessons have been very good for me indeed.

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    • It’s such a tough situation, and it’s so easy to take our anger and frustration out on each other. But that just makes things worse. If we deliberately choose to help others instead, we also help ourselves, I think. Thank you for the sweet comment!

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  4. My motto is “do no harm, but take no sh!t” so I’m right there with you. I have boundaries hence the last part of my motto, but I tend to focus on doing no harm the most. I am soooo over memes that mock [people too for that matter]. I play nice and just. won’t. when all this vicious online stuff comes my way.

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    • Me too! And I actually agree with both parts of your motto. Too many people can mistake being nice for also being a pushover, but that’s not true or healthy for any of us. We do get to set our own boundaries. And when we do, I think we find it much easier to be kind and compassionate towards others. (And honestly, how does anyone who posts those awful memes think they’re doing anything but pouring gasoline on a fire? And why do they want to do that? I just don’t get it.)

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  5. We could do with a little less nagging, too. I stopped reading one daily blogger who has been ending every, single post with “Wash your hands, wear your mask, and keep your distance.” No matter what else she’s written, it all disappears at that point. I’m a big girl, and know what’s needed. I had one set of parents, and I don’t need another.

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    • I know! Unless you’ve just awakened from a four-month coma, you know what you need to do to keep yourself and others safe. Sadly, this pandemic has also brought out many people’s inner need to tell others what to do, every day. Far better to “teach by example” I think. We should live according to our own best principles (or is it principals?) and stifle the urge to instruct others.

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  6. I agree, that our actions should try not to harm anyone. And kindness goes a long way and remains after an act is over. I like to remind myself of the act of kindness offered to me by total strangers, and it always brings a smile to me. Once, while on vacation in the U.S., I was at a grocery store and carrying stuff in my hands. I was looking for my husband to put it in the shopping cart and probably looked lost in the store. And then a lady (that was not working there) approached me and offered me to get a handbasket nearby. A small act but I still remember it as an act of caring.

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    • Thanks for the example, Svet, because that’s exactly what I’m talking about! Sometimes it’s those little gestures that can make the biggest impression. And sometimes those little gestures are so desperately needed. I honestly believe that it is more important than ever that we try our best to be kind and patient.

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  7. You are so right, Ann. Today I offered help to a gentleman struggling to get out of his car but someone had already offered him help. He was most gracious and blessed me (even though I was trying to overhelp him!)

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  8. Strangely enough I’ve found the people in this area very giving, patient and kind during this time, even though we were locked in for almost four months. So far I haven’t seen the anger I’ve heard about or seen in other areas of the country, even while getting out recently. So maybe I’ll just stay in my little cubby and let the world go by for a while until this all shakes out..:)

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    • That’s wonderful, George! Our lock down was about two and a half months, and we are still on some restrictions. But I’ve seen both the best and the worst of other people lately, especially on social media. (And sadly, social media does seem to bring out the worst more often than the best.) Still, I think you plan is a good one!

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  9. I think I’m lucky to have escaped seeing the angry memes because I can’t think of any off-hand (not COVID-related that is). I’m impressed at your self-care – flowers! Mine tends to be chocolate which is probably a lot less healthy, though to be fair, I have list a few pounds over lockdown so I must be doing something right…

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  10. This really spoke to me, Ann. Like you, I’ve noticed such anger, especially on social media. And much of it is from Christians, too, which is so sad. May we look to the Lord for answers and look around to see how we can help others. Bless you for these thoughts!

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  11. Very true! We all know how it feels when someone’s being kind to is, so it shouldn’t be too hard to so it ourselves. And yet many people get carried away by their stress and lash out. I observe the same things happening here, Ann, and it worries me. So I try to put a smile on when I talk to a cashier for example even though I’m wearing a mask and they can’t see it because I believe we can hear it anyway and also catch a glimpse of it in our eyes. Every little helps, right? And now I’ve to confess to haven’t applied any make-up anymore since wearing the masks! Mostly because I’m not sure it would stay put. 😂

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    • Trust me, it doesn’t really stay put! I think I just do it now and then because I want to feel normal. And of course, if we’re eating on a patio, I can take the mask off…smudged make up and all. But yes, I think people are simply acting on their stress, which is understandable. We just have to be intentional about being as kind as we can, because I agree that every little bit helps. Take care, Sarah!

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  12. In the first month or so of the pandemic and “lock down,” I noticed people being so kind and thoughtful to each other. I thought “Maybe this is what we, as a human race, needed to get our acts together and learn to be compassionate to others.” But now, I fear, people are “losing it.” They’re losing patience and self-control and kindness is thrown out the door. We can only hope that it’s only the rogue few who are unable to handle the pressure of this crisis. We can only hope that more people are learning the lesson of empathy.

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    • I know! That’s what I saw, too….much more patience and “we’re all in this together” at the beginning of this whole ordeal. Now people are frustrated, angry, and looking for someone or something to blame. And of course, since this is a new situation, blaming is very easy. I do hope that it is a case of the most vocal voices also being the most extreme (which is often the case, especially in politics), and that more people are learning to have patience and empathy. It is a very hard situation, but lashing out at others only makes things worse. And when we try to help each other, we also help ourselves. Thanks for this comment!

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    • Thanks, Barb! I think it does help to remember that everyone is stressed right now, and so others need us to be kind to them. Too often, we get caught up in our own stress and think we somehow have the right to take it out on others. It does help us all so much when someone is kind to us!

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  13. I love your positivity, Ann. I am pretty up and down depending on the day. Some days I feel very fragile and the abuse of a road rage driver almost feels like experiencing trauma. Other days I am happy to flip them off. One day I read the news and feel angry about almost everything I read. Another day I just shake my head and move on. That is life most any day, but in these times the highs and lows feel so much more intense.

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    • I’m the same way, Kim! Some days I handle it so much better than others. What I’ve tried to do is avoid interactions with others altogether on the days that I know I’m feeling especially stressed, so that way I can make sure I’m not going to lash out at anyone. But even then, when I finally do reach out to someone and they respond in a positive way, I feel so much better!

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  14. Hi Ann, I’m over here from Linda’s blog and wanted to give you a “High Five” for a spot-on post. We’re all feeling the effects of this thing — the worries and fears, the frustrations, the boredom. Why we can’t be kind to each other is beyond me — and yet, it feels as if we’ve never been more cut-throat in history. Sigh. I suppose those of us who can (and that would be ALL of us!) should nip snarkiness in the bud and spread more kindness wherever possible!

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    • Thanks so much, Debbie! I agree, all of us can stop being snarky if we just try. It amazes me how many people think it is okay to lash out these days. Yes, we’re all on our “last nerve” but why make things worse? Last night a friend stopped by with a lovely dinner, flowers and a card for my husband and I to enjoy on our 40th anniversary, since we couldn’t celebrate in the way we had been planning to. It was such a sweet gesture, and honestly, it made my day!!!!

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