What can you do?

How many times have you said that to yourself of late?

The world, to put it bluntly, is a mess.

There’s rampant inflation, soaring energy prices, a crippling drought, record high temperatures, runaway gun violence, the seemingly unending scourge of COVID-19, the whole Jan. 6 debacle, something called monkeypox, a baby formula shortage, the battle over abortion rights, the brutal war in Ukraine, and the list goes on and on.

It’s enough to make the average person throw up their hands and say, what can you do?

But that, rather than a desperate admission of the average person’s impotence in the face of global crises, is a fair question.

What can you do?

You can start by simply being nice. Smile at a stranger, say hi, make a connection. Human beings are certainly far from perfect, in fact we are the source of all the world’s woes, but we are the best hope we have. It’s not like we can sit back and let the animals run things. We saw how badly that turned out in the “Planet of the Apes” movies.

And artificial intelligence? Please. Unless your Siri is way smarter than mine I’ll take my chances with the flesh and blood brand of smarts, thanks.

What can you do?

Follow the rules. Not just the big ones, like the 10 Commandments or the Golden Rule, but all of them. Don’t run that red light. Don’t roll through that stop sign. Don’t turn without signaling. Don’t speed. OK, don’t speed too much, anyway.

Go out of your way to do something for somebody else. Or don’t even go out of your way, do something simple. Hold the door for somebody, for instance. Pick up a piece of trash on the sidewalk. Put your shopping cart in the corral thingie in the store parking lot. Offer someone your seat in the waiting room if they are older and less mobile than you.

You have no idea what anybody else is going through. You don’t know the burden they may be carrying, the pain they may be feeling, the hurt they may be harboring. They are not coming from the same place you do. Nobody is. We each are on our own path.

What can you do?

Don’t judge. Don’t stick up your nose if you don’t approve of someone else’s choices. As long as they are not hurting you, how they live their lives is none of your business.

The Bible is filled with admonitions about judgment. My favorite comes in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.” In other words, worry about your own life before you think about meddling in someone else’s. Each of us has more faults than we can shake a plank at.

Be kind. I’ve heard of killing someone with kindness but as far as I know nobody’s died from it yet. Offer to help a neighbor, a friend, a stranger, with something big or small. And smile, darn you, smile.

Don’t label people. Don’t pigeon-hole them. Our world is divisive enough without ordinary citizens contributing to that schism. Red or blue, black or white, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, carnivore or vegan. In the big scheme of things, none of that really matters. We are all human beings, with the same basic wants and needs.

What can you do?

You can pray, certainly, if you’re a mind to, but not everyone is. I wish they were. I wish everyone believed as I do, but they don’t. In fact, belief in God has dropped to a new low in America, with only 81% of Americans responding to a recent Gallup poll expressing a belief in the Almighty. That’s the lowest figure since the Gallup folks first asked the question in 1944. I guess those of us who do believe just need to pray harder.

Respect everyone. Be sensitive to people’s feelings. Listen and be empathetic. Don’t look down on anyone. Love everybody.

Will doing all of that help solve the world’s problems? No, of course not. But it just may make someone’s day better, and if you have made someone else’s life somehow easier you, my friend, have had a pretty darn good day.

What can you do? A lot, as it turns out. Now go out and do it.

Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News and Eagle. Email him at janjeff2002@yahoo.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at janjeff2002@yahoo.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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