In 2013 help me spread hope around me
December 23, 2012 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Help me spread hope around me as part of my new year resolution

I live in some part of Europe called Belgium and I feel that as a society, we could do with a little bit more hope. We've had one attempted murder for religious reason, plants closing, bleak economy, even Brussels Christmas tree sparked a controversy.

2012 has been a year of facepalm-inducing controversies in a country used to making compromises. I feel that tolerating other opinions/religions/whatever is on the way down. There is even a remote possibility that june 2014 elections will start the self-destruct countdown of Belgium and split the country but that's a story for another time.

What can I do as an individual to spread hope around me ? Should I print posters with inspirational quotes and staple them on walls or glue them to phonebooths etc. ?

Outside of a Holywood movie screenplay is there a set of actions a single person can do to spread more hope around him ?
posted by Baud to Human Relations (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I like the idea of leaving inspirational messages around. I tend to notice stuff like that when it's really small instead of poster sized (like a sticker I saw recently in the library bathroom stall that said something like, "it's going to be ok", I thought that was really cool even though it was defacing property). Also: random acts of kindness.
posted by marimeko at 9:55 AM on December 23, 2012

One random acts of kindness formula works like this:

1. Do something nice for someone.
2. Leave them a note describing why you did this thing and asking that the reader do something nice for someone as well. Do not identify yourself except as "someone you don't know" or something like that.

You might make the note out of something sturdy so that it can be passed from person to person with each person leaving a mark on it to show how long the "chain" is. The impact of seeing a long chain of kindness might help show that there are many other decent folk out there, not just a single person.
posted by Winnemac at 10:04 AM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, this is gonna be corny, but ... well, 'tis the season. I think one of the most effective things to do is just to pay attention. Pay attention to those who could use a boost, pay attention to those who have done nice things, and pay attention to goodness in general.

If you happen across a frazzled cashier or server or whatever, lend a smile and sympathize about what a long day it is, or how you can't wait for the weekend, etc. Not in a way that highlights "Gee it is so obvious that you're miserable", but more as a shared human experience kind of thing. Try take them out of their moment of frustration and let them know that they're not alone, even in that small way.

See someone do something nice, like give up a seat on the bus, hold the door open, or pick up something dropped by a stranger? Give them recognition: Just a simple "That was really nice of you, thank you for doing that." Be slightly effusive in thanking people when they've done things for you, even if it's their job. If the sales associate helped you with your purchase, instead of just saying "thanks", elaborate. Say "Thank you so much for your help; I really love these jeans / I so needed this latte! / I'm so excited to see my brothers's face when he gets this present!"

And finally, just pay attention to goodness in all its forms. Is there a kid playing quietly in a doctor's waiting room? Compliment him and his parent for how nicely he's behaving. Someone's wearing a great scarf or is carrying an interesting bag? Tell them you like it!

I mean, there's obviously a fine line between being nice and being creepy/intrusive. But I guess I feel that we all get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget about the dozens of strangers and acquaintances that we interact with every day. I think that connecting with these people positively, even just for a brief moment, can do plenty to remind ourselves that we are all part of the same community, that we're more similar than we are different, and that we're ultimately all in this together. I truly believe that genuine kindness and positivity are contagious.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 12:32 PM on December 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

What is "hope" to you? To me hope is a combination of two beliefs: "things will likely get better" combined with "I can endure long enough to get to that better state." So either pick something and work to make it better, or try to help people endure.

Inspirational quotes are risky. Cheesy feel-good.stuff is extremely dispiriting to me when I'm feeling down.
posted by salvia at 9:54 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I believe that gratefulness is the most wonderful and powerful emotion. My suggestion would be to inspire people to be grateful for what is important to them. Gratefulness prioritizes life, in its own special way. It gives people something to hope for -- 'no matter what, THESE are the things that are most important and as long as I don't lose them, all is well'. So people fight for the things that matter the most, instead of what doesn't matter at all.

So here's a crazy, random thought. What if... you put up stickers around the city like "I am grateful for ________"? Either fill it in yourself or leave it blank and let others put something in it?
posted by icanbreathe at 10:48 PM on December 23, 2012

Volunteer with an organization that gives people hope, of course!
posted by oceanjesse at 2:22 AM on December 24, 2012

"I am grateful for ________"

See, this is what I mean by risky. If you filled in the blank, someone in need of hope may well be like, "yeah, great, you're grateful for your family, but my last living relative just died!" or "yeah, great, you're thankful for the sky, and if I had the time and money to make annoyingly twee stickers, I'd be thankful for the sky too. Too bad you didn't give that money to me; it probably could've put dinner on the table for a week." And if you left it blank, someone in a negative mindset might be like, "um, I don't what you're grateful for, is this a guessing game??" or "that's right, you're grateful for a big fat nothing, because things suck in this town."

You have to imagine how someone suffering will see things if you want to actually lend comfort or hope. People suffering see things differently. There's been actual research on this related to art in hospitals. (I don't know the citation but heard it in a presentation by former UC Berkeley professor Clare Cooper Marcus.) People in pain and crisis can, for instance, see skull faces in abstract art or interpret a vague dark spot not as an apple seed but as a rotten abcess.

If you're really committed to stickers, I'd go with images that are simple and unambiguously positive, or with practical help: "If you're having a hard time, we'd like to help," followed by a list of social service providers and phone numbers.
posted by salvia at 12:36 PM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perhaps partake in the You Are Beautiful movement?
posted by Sreiny at 7:16 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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