“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” –Mr. Rogers
If you believe Mr. Rogers, and I do, every day is a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Certainly, some days it is hard to recognize this and far be it for me to tell anyone that they must. So I’m going to take a minute to describe how I look at things while fully supporting your freedom to choose differently.
I want to move through life with a positive attitude, seeing life’s challenges as opportunities, as best as I can. And that’s the key expression, “as best I can.” One of my life-guiding beliefs is that everyone is doing the best they can. In some moments this might not look like much, but perhaps a dour person I encounter is dealing with something tragic in his life or is distracted by some kind of pain. To greet him as if he is doing the best he can helps me accept him as I am seeing him. I am less likely to pass judgement or take his behavior personally.
Of course there are time I’m not too good at it. And in those moments I have to treat myself as doing the best I can. The temptation is to beat ourselves up when we don’t meet our own expectations for ourselves. That just compounds negativity with negativity. That can easily become a downward spiral.
It’s also easy to say that if I treat everyone, including myself, as if we are doing the best we can, I’ll settle for mediocrity, I’ll get stepped on, taken advantage of, treated like a doormat. I think that’s all in the attitude, too. Coming from a gentle, peaceful place is good for us. It nourishes our soul. It is the basis of kindness. And when you are coming from that place, truly soul-based, it is impossible to be taken advantage of. Oh, it may look like it to others in the moment, maybe even to yourself. But ask yourself, is it really possible for a human soul to be taken advantage of? Still don’t believe me? Try to strip off the levels of materialism and arrogance and ask again.
What does this have to do with being kind in your neighborhood? Well, the whole world is really our neighborhood. How we go out into it says everything about the kind of people we are (emphasis on the kind). But it’s important to start close to home, to how we treat ourselves, then those we live with, then our neighbors, etc. See it as a series of circles increasing in size and in which you stand in the center. Build that inner core and it starts to radiate love and kindness, our natural state of being, outwardly. This week’s exercise was designed to take you a couple of circles out from the center.