I ran across the quote, “Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.” It stopped me. I read it a couple times, and I thought about the recent events in Paris. It may be easy for us to quickly forget about atrocities that are happening around the world, and move along in our lives like these things don’t affect us. Do we so easily dismiss these things because we feel like there is nothing we can do to make a difference?
During my time as a police officer, I had started to believe that no matter what I did, I wasn’t making a difference. I would get called to the same domestic disturbances – mostly family fights – with the same people. I would deal with the same troubled kids over and over, and nothing was getting better. I would see the same homeless people day in and out.
I had to turn off the emotional part of myself to be able to understand and deal with the everyday suffering people go through. The problem with turning off a part of myself, is that it wasn’t sustainable, and I became someone I didn’t like.
The expectation is that a police officer has to be tough and strong, and that you can’t show weakness in any shape or form. An officer can’t crumble when dealing with a conflict or a stressful situation; you have to push through whatever comes your way.
After years and years of this, I became callous and hard to the world, and had no patience for anyone else’s suffering.
But how do we start to create change? We have to start with ourselves. We have to look inward before we can look outward for answers. Here are four ways you can create change for the greater good.
- Become aware of what you focus on daily. What amount of energy are you putting into things that do not matter? How much time are you spending daily on Facebook, scrolling through posts about what someone ate for breakfast or what they’re wearing to work? Are you the one posting the picture of what you had for lunch? What amount of time are you losing every single day on things that mean nothing?
- When you see despair and sorrow, do you turn away from it? When was the last time you talked to a homeless person? I mean, actually spoke to them. Asked them if they were doing okay. Or do you grab your purse a little tighter and walk past hoping they don’t talk to you? It takes no amount of extra time for you to acknowledge that person internally. If you’re not comfortable helping out or talking to them, that’s perfectly fine, but at least recognize that that is a person in need.
- Know that one person can create change. You are one person and if you want to help a person in need, volunteer at an organization, or give back in some way, you are creating change. You giving your time to another human being is creating change for that person, which then creates a domino effect of change. As I started to learn this focusing inward during my last few years as an officer, I know I treated people differently. I listened more; I was empathic I tried to help in any way possible. You and you alone are enough to create change.
- Be thankful. There may be times when we feel we can’t find a sense of gratitude or thankfulness. But if you have a place to lay your head at night, you have more than most.
Showing that you have a heart, and care for others takes courage. It is not a sign of weakness. Tragedies will continue to happen; it’s inevitable, we need to look at them, not turn away, and know that we can make a difference every single day.