Though many westerners visiting India have talked about this, it wasn’t until this trip that I really experienced it: our picture is very often sought after. People want selfies. While I’ve heard some tourists complain about this, I am not one of them. We often seem very different. Few people I’ve met have seen someone who wants to cycle long distances – especially for fun. Why wouldn’t we want a photo with someone who seems unique to us?
So instead of complaining, I just enjoy the experience. When I go home, people won’t even look up when I walk by, but here people want to be seen with me. And so it is that I have only one requirement for a selfie: I also get to take one. Because, after all, you think I’m cool and worth remembering and/or sharing, and I also feel the same way. And so, except for one that I accidentally forgot to reciprocate with, I now have a growing collection of selfies with people who asked me for a selfie..
Over on Facebook, a friend has been watching my experiences here and was saying they were feeling discouraged about the world – a world where many of us online are arguing daily about sociopolitical issues. We’re losing friends to vicious arguments online and it seems like things aren’t getting any better. Seeing my meeting so many different people and clearly liking all of them, she asked me what my thoughts were. I want to share them with you also.
I think our culture is changing in North America and we (and I include myself in this), on all sides of any given ideology, are becoming more polarized. We are less willing to celebrate our similarities and more inclined to be angry about our differences. And yes, I know, some of the differences we have right now are pretty big.
But what I can say from this one ride (and my other visits as well) is that wherever we are in the world, whatever our religion or political ideology, most of us enjoy peace and harmony. We like it when people are nice to us and try to be nice to others. We want to be liked and respected regardless of our backgrounds.
So my challenge to you (myself, and others as well) is to look hard for the good every moment you can. If you can’t find the good in that one person who left a terrible comment on a news article’s comment feed, find good in someone else. Good doesn’t blow it’s own horn or post a neon sign saying “look at me” like negativity does. There are fewer articles being posted on Facebook saying “Look at this great thing someone did!” than there are saying “What a horrible thing this person is doing.”
I really started noticing this in 2012 when Daegan and I were preparing for the 500 Kindnesses ride – which I treated like a charity bike ride except instead of asking for sponsors to give money to a charity, I asked our ride’s supporters to just do something nice for someone else and anonymously tell me. I got over 1,400 pledges. And every day for well over a year I would hear about someone doing good things like surprising their neighbour with fresh-baked bread, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or offering to help friends who were new parents by taking care of their new baby for a night so they could have a date together. Hundreds of us worked together to send holiday cards to an old age home from nearly every continent. And all my friends, knowing I was interested in kindness started sending me articles they saw about other people doing kind things. The result is that instead of a Facebook feed choked with bad news, I had a daily diet of good news. And that permanently changed how I view the world. And even as I know awful things in the world are happening every single day in every corner of the world, these individual positive interactions continue to happen.