Even though the holidays are upon us, I've noticed that lately, many people in Toronto have been more rude, selfish and inconsiderate than usual. Driving in my car, I'm often cut off. People speed through red lights and try to squeeze into parallel-moving traffic, risking accidents as they muscle their way in.
The other day, a small truck in front of me stopped at an intersection and stayed stopped, refusing to allow the growing line-up of cars to move forward. When somebody finally honked, the driver gesticulated angrily, even though he was the one holding up the traffic.
On the subway, I've noticed more pushing and shoving. Men spread their legs across two seats even when someone else is standing nearby, loaded down with bags. On the streets, pedestrians race by one-other not looking where they're going. They bash into someone and then hurry off angrily, blaming the other person for getting in their way.
I hear the same stories from my friends and family members in the U.S. and Europe, and the only reason I can see for this global increase in rude, selfish, inconsiderate behaviour is a growing sense of alienation, here in Toronto and around the world.
I've never thought that it was enough to simply encourage people to be more loving during the holidays.
There seem to be more and people who carry on as though they don't really care about anyone else. There's an epidemic of loneliness and isolation out there, and this growing sense of disconnection makes people care even less about others. It's as though we've forgotten -- or perhaps never realized -- how deeply connected we all truly are.
We need to understand that our behaviour is contagious. The more rude, selfish and inconsiderate people are, the more those on the receiving end of the rudeness are inclined to be equally rude and self-centered. On the other hand, the more caring and thoughtful people are, the more those around them are inspired to be kind.
This time of year, we're told to be more loving. We're encouraged to get into the "holiday spirit." We're supposed to be more giving, more understanding. But what if we don't feel particularly connected to other people? It's hard to be loving when you don't feel much love.
I've never thought that it was enough to simply encourage people to be more loving during the holidays. I've always thought that people should be reminded to be kind and considerate, all year round. We ought to rename the "holiday spirit" the "human spirit," and it should be something we aspire to, every single day of the year.
The rude, inconsiderate people I mentioned above were all just doing the best they could. I'm sure they believed that this would make them happy, but the fact is, it won't. The more selfish, rude and inconsiderate we are, the more unhappy we feel, and the more lonely.
Selfishness and rudeness come from feeling disconnected, and they makes us feel that much more alienated and miserable. All these rude, selfish people have been playing a no-win game.
Fortunately, it's easy to break the vicious circle of selfishness and misery. All we have to do is connect more to others. Feeling connected causes us to be more kind to others, and kindness creates a positive spiral.
Every act of kindness and generosity makes us happier and more connected.
The more kind we are, the happier we'll be, and the happier we are, the more kind we'll be. Other people will be happier when we're kind to them, and they'll be more kind to us and to others, in turn.
Instead of getting into the "holiday spirit," let's promote the human spirit and encourage everyone to try and connect with each-other a little bit more, every day. Let's talk to our neighbours, chat with the clerk at the store, say "good morning" to our bus driver.
Let's try to be courteous on the road or in the subway. Let's be polite to strangers. Let's try to smile more, since smiling at people will brighten their day and ours.
Let's try to share more with others. Every act of kindness and generosity makes us happier and more connected. Sharing and caring are good for our emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.
Instead of having this spirit of kindness, consideration and generosity be relegated to a few short weeks in the year, let's choose it as our driving force the whole year through. Kindness and caring are the cure to loneliness, alienation and misery. Feeling connected to other people is the true source of happiness.
We're all unique individuals, but we're also all alike. We all want to be loved, to belong, to have a life of meaning. No matter what our differences are, no matter our race, religion, sexual orientation or nationality, we're all just people who, given the chance, would much rather love and be loved than hate and be hated.
Happy holidays to everyone. Let's go forward into 2017 spreading the message of connection, kindness, goodwill and love.
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