My mom, who is now 90, can be found every evening sitting on her front porch entertaining a seemingly endless parade of family, friends, neighbors and strangers. It’s been that way all her life; she loves people, and they all love her.
Last night I was one of them, sitting quietly in a chair staring off at the giant elms and listening to the birds sing their night songs. My sister was already there, as was my 10-year-old nephew David, and the mom next door with her two young boys. My brother Shawn soon joined us and we routinely greeted neighbors walking their children and dogs.
At one point the yard emptied out and Margie (mom) asked me a question filled with sadness, disappointment and hope: “Jimmy, why is everyone so angry these days?” I understood immediately what she meant. I mean, we are renowned for our deep and ruthless sarcasm, but lately, tension has been bubbling under the surface with almost everyone you meet.
“I think, mom” I quickly responded, “a big part of it has to do with COVID and being in lockdown for two years, but it is also something more. I think people everywhere have been assaulted and insulted from almost every angle. Think about all that has transpired since 2019.
“Not only does the world discover we are in a pandemic, but we never really understand how or why is started and we really don’t know what to do about it, and we don’t know who to listen to or trust. At the same time, there is terrible civil unrest raging around the world and again, no real leadership to establish direction. Then the nasty and contentious presidential election that ends up with an attack on the Capitol. Then the economy starts to crash and war breaks out in Europe, meanwhile climate change is finally being accepted as a reality that has dire consequences… and COVID is still lurking, not to mention Monkeypox.
“I think people are afraid and they are lonely and they are angry. For the past two and a half years they have lost so much control over their lives, and no one likes to be out of control.”
My mom just shook her head. “I don’t know, everyone just seems so angry.”
I assured her that it would get better, which got me wondering how and when. I thought about it all night, literally awaking in the middle of the night dreaming about it. And I think I have an answer.
First, I think it might be a good time for everyone to realize that control has always been an illusion. Second, as my mom would say, we all just need to be nice, but especially to ourselves, because you really can’t be nice to anyone else unless you start by being nice to yourself. Third, I think we should start a new hashtag challenge, the #ScreamILoveYou challenge, where you just run up to random people – people you know or complete strangers – and just shout: I LOVE YOU! It couldn’t hurt.