If I've learned one thing in my sixteen years, it is that there is too much negativity in the world. People relent from their lifelong ambitions when faced with even the slightest adversity. A small discomfort merits days of inexorable complaint. Websites such as "FML" rank among the most visited pages on the internet. All the while, people cast a blind eye to true hardship; if it doesn't affect them, then it probably isn't important. I would have yielded to this attitude a long time ago if it wasn't for a certain, ever-smiling, eighty-year-old beacon of light guiding me.
My grandmother, quickly approaching her eight-first birthday, is not someone who one would describe as a typical elderly person. Although she is not exactly sprightly in step, her joyful eyes and jovial smile convey a youthfulness one would have forgotten existed in the world. Her eyes have witnessed much in her years, but they are still as spry as those of a toddler. No matter what adversity she has faced, she has come out laughing, fully aware that they are simply natural events in the cycle of life. Almost twenty years ago, her youngest daughter, my mother, flew ten-thousand miles across the ocean, to a land she could never imagine. Smiling at her good fortune, my grandmother would call her every day, inquiring about the city, the people, and the strange phenomenon known as "snow." This wasn't for her own comfort; she had already gotten two daughter married and was used to their absence. It was for my mother's comfort, who had never been away from her family for more than a day in her life. She veiled the concern in her life with cheerful stories about life back home and helped my mother survive the freezing, December afternoons in her and my father's apartment in Denver. Her penchant for comforting people also applied to other situations. When I was six years old, my grandfather passed away. I was too young to really understand what happened, but she comforted me all the same with tales of God taking him to heaven in a golden plane. I still didn't understand, but these stories comforted me nonetheless. I still think about them today and smile at her kindness. She also makes it a point to visit every two years for a minimum of six months. During these visits, her infectious charm spreads to everyone in the household. Typical bickering ceases and nostalgic childhood memories form. She occupies herself during these periods by helping in the kitchen, merrily cutting some vegetables or making a simple dish. She also insists on visiting the various stores in the area, despite the fact that she only knows about three words of English. She loves seeing the thousands of smiling people and takes in their happiness as her own.
It was during one of these visits several years ago that she was diagnosed with an internal cancer. Although she did not understand the implications of this, she still understood that she was very sick. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but during the operation, certain complications arose, leading to a state of panic among my family. She acted as though she was completely oblivious to this, and made jokes and told stories of her life while we all gathered around her hospital bed. This continued up until the day of her final surgery, and as soon as she came around from the anesthesia, she was her buoyant self again. This, accompanied by the slew of get-well cards from my fourth-grade class, made me realize that everything was going to be O.K. and that with a little cheerfulness, everything would pass easily. Once she was well enough to stop being cooped-up in the house, she insisted on visiting everyone she knew and having a good time. She rapidly chattered away in Gujarati, as though nothing had happened in her life and she was just a child visiting a friend.
It during these visits that I developed my sense of sympathy and jollity. I am convinced that I would be one of those angst-ridden, world-hating teenagers if it were not for her impact. For this, I owe her an eternal debt as she gave me a gift far more valuable than any material possession. I work hard not to disappoint her (although I know that she would make merry of the situation) every day, and, in her absence, try to spread as much cheer through the world as she does.
Ever since our first forays into friendship, it has always been a tacit agreement to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. This "golden rule" would seem to be the most basic of all understandings; it is so prevalent through childhood that it is almost like an instinctual reflex. Yet, every day we see successful and respected adults trampling all over this simple maxim. This Machiavellian attitude pervades every aspect of our lives, extending far beyond the oft-pictured corrupt politician selling his vote to the highest bidder. People cut each other off in traffic, refuse to tip, and place their own needs above those of everyone else. Nobody feels the need to help anyone else and common courtesy is all but forgotten. It is no wonder that depression is on the rise and stress levels are through the roof.
Don't hit, play fair, and share your toys." These were the first words I remember hearing on my first day of pre-school. Back in those days, I took these rules for granted; a disorderly student would simply be taken for a time-out or would miss five minutes of recess (or ten, depending on the severity of the infraction) and would come back as the image of a perfect child. Nothing in the world seemed to be more natural to me than the "golden rule." It became the philosophy by which I lived my life, and, in my naïve little world, that which everyone else lived their life by as well.
As I grew older, I began to notice disturbing things about the world. People would lie, cheat and abuse one another, all for personal gain. I could scarcely believe what they were doing, much less understand their motives; it violated the axiom on which I thought society depended upon. When I moved to Dallas, I was simultaneously awed by the expanse of highways crisscrossing the city and horrified by the selfishness that people drove with on them. In order to shave 30 seconds off of their commute, people would cut each other off, yell obscenities at one another and have the audacity to argue speeding tickets when they were going eighty in a fifty-five. I witnessed an ambulance, sirens blaring, being overtaken by a cranky-looking middle aged woman presumably wanting to get home earlier so she wouldn't miss the Grammy Awards. Such selfishness extends even beyond personal incidents like this. The incident with Bernie Madoff last year horrified me; how could one man, already a millionaire, destroy the lives of thousands of others? How could anyone suffer from such an abhorrent lack of empathy?
Now seeing the world for what it is, I try to inject a little kindness into it every day. I don't consciously go out of my way to do this, but if I can do something to help someone while minimally disrupting my routine, I do it without a second thought. It can be something as simple as holding the door open for someone to something like the community service I perform monthly for National Honor Society. A little work isn't going to hurt me, so why shouldn't I do it to make someone else's life a little bit better? Maybe in turn they will follow my example and help other people. If the world was a nicer place, then maybe millions of people would still have their jobs, and maybe ambulances would reach hospitals sooner, and maybe kindness wouldn't be considered a chore. In the grand scheme of things, missing an episode of American Idol or getting to class ten seconds late doesn't mean much. The happiness of everyone around us, however, does. If anything I do can brighten up someone else's day, then whatever work it took was worth it.
I know they're kind of contrived sounding, can anyone help?