One autumn afternoon I was driving, feeling somewhat melancholy about the world and the general feeling of indifference in our society. I slowed my car to enjoy a beautiful blazing red maple tree. Across from the tree stood a 10-year-old boy. Seeing me, he lifted his hand to wave hello. I waved back, deeply touched by the simple act. Tears streamed down my face as I drove away. That child’s wave instantly shifted my glum demeanor. The world seemed much less bleak with that simple connection.

If you had the choice of making a positive difference in someone’s day or not making any difference at all, what would you choose?

Most people would say that they would make the positive difference. Who wouldn’t want to brighten someone’s day?

But when we’re not consciously presented with the choice, most of us don’t make a difference — or worse, we negatively impact someone or something else.

I frequently visit a local non-profit organization where one of the women at the front desk greets every patron with a smile, kind words and cheerfulness. She makes a connection with every person who walks in the door, without judgment. She is indifferent to no one. Everyone’s day is made better by her warmth and charisma, no matter whether she is having a bad day or not.

There are other employees that I have encountered within the same organization who have left a bad taste in my mouth. These people seem miserable and I can’t seem to leave them fast enough.

Most of us are somewhere between the charismatic, outgoing receptionist and the miserable employee when it comes to work or a social setting. We may not have indifference to others in our job or our relationships, but what about our indifference to strangers? How often do we go about our day, ignoring people we pass in public? How often do we connect with a perfect stranger and share a moment, a smile or a laugh? When we’re stuck in our minds and are constantly distracted, we have no time or energy to be charismatic. We only have space for indifference.

There are other ways we can perpetuate this indifference — by not caring for plants, by polluting the earth, by killing spiders and insects, by eating food that is not ideal for our health and well-being, by not getting enough rest, by not honoring our insight and intuition, by hiding our talents, by supporting businesses that have had some negative effect on the community, laborers or the environment.

Take a deep, introspective look at your life. How have you been perpetuating indifference on this planet?

Here are some simple ways to break free from this indifference:

  • Make a positive connection with three complete strangers daily.
  • Prepare and eat food consciously — listening to your body and choosing the best whole foods for you.
  • Shop locally and responsibly.
  • Reuse as many items as possible.
  • Capture a spider or insect and free it outside your home rather than kill it.
  • Share your talents — music, artwork, storytelling, dance, photography — with the world.
  • Get enough rest and alone time so that when you are out in the world, you have the available energy to connect with and appreciate other people.

You may have instant feedback letting you know how much you are making a positive difference in the world and you may not have any feedback whatsoever. Make that positive difference anyway. Sometimes the simplest acts will completely alter the day — or life — of someone or something else.

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