Sadly, it is a well known fact that there is a lot of negativity out there to stress us out and raise our anxiety levels, these days.
- Presidential Elections
- Natural Disasters (ie Matthew)
- Financial Hardships
- Relationship Disappointments
- Work Stress
The list really could go on and on, and it would be an easy one to write. Everywhere we turn there is something ready to ruin our day. The problem is, it only takes one, and there are hoards of problems waiting.
I don’t have to tell you that it only takes that one unfortunate circumstance to ruin your day, make a week rough, a month hard, and a year a struggle. Just one.
Negative emotions are easily come by, and hard to get rid of.
Positive ones are harder to come buy and easily lost.
It usually takes a string of good things and maybe a big moment for someone to say they have had a “great” day, as opposed to “fine”, “okay”, or “meh”.
Its easy to say things like “chin up”, or “stay positive”; but what does that look like?
With the storm devastation, it is a little more obvious. People are donating their time and goods to those who have lost so much. But with the mindset of despair and stress, that comes with where our country is, and where it looks like we’re heading right now, from the presidential race, to black lives matter, to the financial stress of those who are unemployed or hardly employed… where do we even start?
That battle against negativity, catching and spreading a lot faster than positivity, and having longer lasting effects, can be fought.
True, it is easier to stay afraid, stressed, or angry than it is to stay encouraged, hopeful, and proactive. We only need a monthly reminder of why life is hard, we need hourly if not a minute by minute reminder of why life is beautiful.
I was spending some time with friends a couple nights ago, when something gradually dawned on me. My friend Caleb was talking about an opportunity, my friend Jason was joking around, my friend Katie was sitting there with jokes flying over her head, and Ryan was playing little brother to my “stop that” big sister stare. As my friends were joking around, talking about job opportunities, and just being themselves, there were several moments throughout the conversation that I pin pointed things I appreciated about each of them.
I thought that Caleb should take the opportunity, and I made a mental list in my head of all the characteristics and qualities I admire and respect about him, to support my opinion. I had a mental image of his potential, which I think is pretty vast, and said, “yeah, you should go.”
I think Caleb is awesome. I have so much respect and admiration for who he is as a person, and really truly believe he could do anything he wanted to. His determination and ability to self motivate intimidates the crap out of me. Does he know any of that? Nope. Well, not unless he is reading this post. In which case, awkward!
Later that night, I was sitting on my friend Jason’s porch. We hadn’t hung out in a while, and it struck me acutely how much I missed just chatting with him. I value his sense of humor, and his insight on just about everything, even if I don’t agree (Redskins over Cowboys, any and everyday!).
Sitting there with the cool fall breeze cutting through my scarf, I laughed. But silently, I thought about how much influence he has had on me as a person. He was a crucial part of my development as I transitioned from youth into an adult. His laid back consistent way of being, helped me not to freak out when my life was going to hell in a hand-basket. The thing is, he probably has no clue.
How often do we have a great deal of love and respect for our family and friends, but never take the time to explain to them how much, or maybe more importantly, why.
Maybe you saw the title of this post and thought I was going to encourage people to confess their undying love… oh wait, I am. Just not to whom you may have expected. This isn’t about romance. This is about human interaction and our ability to affect one another. Its about my desire to be aware of that, and use it in a positive way.
I don’t know why I shy away from complementing people. For some reason, even though it’s a nice thing to do, and I never got yelled at for it as a child, something about it makes me really uncomfortable. It’s easier to say “yeah, you should go”, than “I have faith in your determination and resolve, and think you are extremely intelligent and would be good at anything you set your mind to.” Its easier to laugh at jokes, than it is to simply say “thank you for all the years you made me laugh when I wanted to cry, and for teaching me to laugh at myself and at life”. For some reason, that’s hard.
I think it’s hard because it gives people a glimpse into our hearts and minds, how we work and how we think. It makes us vulnerable. But if we can’t be vulnerable with the people we love and trust the most? When can we be?
Last night I drove through Wendy’s for a quick dinner. The girl at the drive through window was flustered, there was a long line of cars behind me, and by the way she was fidgeting and tapping her foot, it looked like the cook wasn’t keeping up the way she’d like. It was obvious she was stressed, or anxious.
I also noticed that her hair was perfectly curled, she had spent time getting her eyeliner just right, and that she was a very pretty girl. She wasn’t having a good night. But how often do we notice times like that, and do nothing about it? How often do we notice good things, and not say anything about it?
When she finally handed my food out the window, I told her that I hoped she knew that she was really pretty. The look of pleasant surprise on her face, and the HUGE smile that followed made my night.
Something so easy as telling her a fleeting thought that had passed through my head, had completely changed her outlook on the evening. As I pulled away, she was glowing. It could have been awkward, and maybe it was a little. But for her, it was probably worth my second of awkwardness, to turn her bad night around.
How easy is it for us to turn someone’s day around, or reshape an interaction, by just being honest, and sharing a little more than we usually do? Why do we keep the good stuff to ourselves?
The girl at Wendy’s was a complete stranger. What about the compliments that go beyond the surface? Those qualities we admire about our friends and family, that they have no idea we value about them, what if we shared those? What if we put in an effort to share encouragement? What if we shined little lights in the dark to the point that the shadows didn’t stand a chance.
With this in mind, I decided to do something a little uncomfortable. If I’m honest, it is a little (WAY) outside my comfort zone. I am going to write letters to the friends and family members that don’t know how much I admire and respect them. I am going to point out the specifics, the character traits that I look up to, the talents that I stand in awe over…
I am going to start to keep a list of people I don’t interrupt while they are talking, but who catch me off guard with just who they are. And I’ll write them a note later.
See the thing is, I believe we are made in the image of our creator. I think that he went into intricate detail when he designed each of us. We are all so different! And that is a beautiful thing.
We have enough to be stressed about in life. Lets spread love, hope, and joy! Snail mail (not including bills and ads) is becoming a bit outdated. It’s rare I get a physical letter. When I do, it feels a lot like Christmas. I get really happy and excited. It is, after all, the little things 🙂
Imagine your friends surprise when they get a letter. Now, imagine the impact that kind of letter could have on their day?
A letter like that would probably be kept. Whose to say the next time they are having a bad day, you know nothing about, or are going through something hard they haven’t mentioned to anyone, that they wont pull out that letter, or stumble across it in a book or a box, and get to read it again when they need it most, and you can’t be there.
The next time they are doubting themselves, they will have your encouragement to remind them that they are strong, that they have someone in their corner. And you’re there, in that letter, pointing out their strengths, and the exact character traits that will ensure that they can get through this.
So often we say the negative things. We vent, we rant, we complain. If we are only holding the good things in because it MIGHT be awkward if we said them out loud, I don’t think that is a good enough reason.
Lets put love in circulation. Lets fill our loved one’s days with light, and with life. Maybe your encouragement is just what that person needs to hear? What could we all be capable of if we knew how much support stood silently behind us?
I am going to start writing my letters. I am going to let my friends and family know I have their backs. In these times, I think our country could use that encouragement.
If you feel like sharing your journey on this experiment use #LoveLetterProject
God bless everyone!