I am grateful for Leah Nelson. If you follow the news with any regularity it is safe to say the upcoming US election is fraught with fear, angst and hope has all but left the building, and that is an understatement of the colossal kind. The rhetoric makes my teeth hurt while I watch, if I watch, and I try very hard not to listen, to tell myself common sense and decency will ultimately prevail. But will it? We think we are safe from such madness in Canada, but we’re really not. Maybe we turn our attention south so we’re not aware of our own shortcomings.
While I was busy wincing I heard about Leah Nelson, a ten-year-old in California who doesn’t moan and complain about the difficulties of life, but instead she takes action to do what she can to change the world. Leah leads by example as children are off inclined to do and she began her “Becuz I Care” campaign. When I read about Leah and her idea and more importantly, her action I think my hope was restored and I was inspired to try harder myself, to make a difference wherever I can when I collide with an opportunity to lend a hand, to extend a smile, because the opportunities for such swarm around us on any given day if only we were paying attention.
Leah stood outside a grocery store in her California community with a stack of bracelets she made; colourful, cheerful stretchy bracelets. Attached to each bracelet was a simple message about extending kindness to each other and when you do so you pass the bracelet along to the person you helped and advise them to “pay it forward”, to do an act of kindness and share the bracelet as a reminder; a simple premise and one that really has the power to change the focus of a day.
When Leah first approached people going into the grocery store she was sometimes ignored, often rebuked, but once people stopped and heard her message they too were transformed. She wasn’t dissuaded by the negative reactions of others. She was polite but persistent, determined to remind others that kindness can easily get brushed aside, can take a back seat to those things we seem intent on pursuing. “Everyone is upset and worried these days,” Leah explained, but kindness toward others can reverse that worry.
We seem to find it much easier to honk at the person ahead of us driving too slowly, or seeming uncertain as to where they are going. We prefer not to let the car in who is merging from a parking lot or joining street. We ignore the person behind us in the grocery line who has two items when we have a cart full when it would be just as simple to let them go ahead. We get frustrated and bothered by those who are challenged by age. We wince and complain when we have to listen to a baby cry or watch a young mother trying to manage on her own while traveling. We exhale dramatically when someone blocks our way on the sidewalk and we certainly look the other way when we are confronted with poverty.
“Don’t be a bucket dipper,” Leah says, which means don’t take something away from others, but rather give to others, even if it’s something as simple as holding a door, extending a smile, sharing a dollar with a homeless person, buying a coffee for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop.
Leah believes together we can “fix the future”. I concur.