Well, the internet service is off right now, so what better thing to do with my time than write a blog entry? (Obviously it’s come back on since I wrote this, though…)

It’s not turned off (as in the bill hasn’t been paid); there’s some kind of technical difficulty, which is an all-too-familiar thing. One thing about living in a tropical country is that you have to take the good with the bad: sure, it’s beautiful and peaceful, but you have to deal with frequent power and internet outages. Today, at least, the electricity’s on. But I digress. Normally writing a blog post is something I have to snatch time for, guiltily, because my for pay stuff dominates my waking hours, or at least those waking hours not consumed by family responsibilities. I’m actually glad for this little time-out from work, because there’s something on my mind I wanted to share with you all.

Earlier this morning, my husband put on a song by one of our mutual favorite bands, Nickelback. For you Nickelback haters, nyah, whatever. But this post isn’t about Nickelback; it’s about the song, or at least the topic of the song and its accompanying video. Called “If Today Was Your Last Day,” it’s one of those songs that brings a lump to my throat when I listen to the lyrics. Here they are, if you’re curious. Here’s the video. If you’ve never watched it, please do, even if you don’t like the band. It’s special. They have a lot of songs that are just good fun to listen to, but they also have some that are inspired, and this is one of them.

If any of you read my “Lost and Found” post from last week, you’ll understand why this song makes me emotional. Recent disasters and upheavals in my life have made me much more cognizant of the good things in my life; being able to count your blessings on your fingers will do that.

Things have gotten progressively better for us over the past few weeks, though we’re not out of the woods yet. Some of that progress is due to our own hard work and some simple good luck, but a good percentage of the credit belongs solidly to other people, people who have, for no reason other than because they wanted to, helped us.

For example, this past Friday my twin boys had their eighth birthday. We didn’t have the money for a party or presents, and it was really hard for us to deal with that guilt. We felt like failures as parents. The boyz had been looking forward to their birthdays for weeks, counting down the days. We’d hoped a big commission from a large writing job would come in on time to do something special for them, but it didn’t. I was pretty depressed. I wrote that blog post in an attempt to bring myself out of that depression. It is a true story, but the hilarity didn’t last long in the face of my despondency.

Until I heard a knock at the door.

We have an unusual living situation. We stay in a long-term hotel type place; it’s almost like sleepaway camp, in a way. But the people here have become like family, and apparently they feel the same about us. Hence, the fact that everyone chipped in and threw my sons a birthday party, without even telling us they were doing it until everything was ready. Cake, candles, candy, singing, even a piñata. It was…amazing.

The boyz were so happy. I stole away from the celebration for a few minutes to cry in our room. Not from sadness, but because I was so grateful and relieved. To see my babies’ eyes shining with elation and glee, and to feel so welcomed and loved by people who, just a few weeks ago, I never even knew existed—it’s priceless.

That brings me back to that song, and to the meat of this post. Kindness.

There is so much ugliness in the world. It’s commonplace to turn on the news or open a newspaper or look online and see nothing but horror stories. Wars, riots, dirty politics, the nastiness that people visit upon each other. People hurting each other, some for revenge or hatred or madness, and some for no reason at all. Pollution and plague and poverty. It’s so sad, and, to a large degree, so senseless.
We as humans have an amazing capacity for cruelty…but we also have an amazing capacity for kindness and caring. I know. I’ve witnessed both.

Cruelty isn’t always an intentional, heinous act with evil intent. Cruelty can be unintentional: it’s as easy as simply not seeing something as you go down the street. When’s the last time you looked around when you make your work commute, or have to pass through the “wrong side of town”? Did you let your gaze slide over the homeless person crouched on the corner? Did you ignore the injured stray dog limping in front of your coffee joint? Did you walk past a charity collection post, quickening your step and not hearing the attendant’s words? Or did you not pick up the crumpled wrapper from the ground when you missed the trash can the last time you ate at a fast food restaurant? After all, there was some employee too pick it up, right?

Yeah, it’s normal. Everyday stuff. But…

What if that employee were you, and you had a bad back that made bending over agony, but that was the only job you could get? The callous disregard and laziness of others causes you pain…but it’s your job, and you’re thankful for it.

What if you were that child with a cleft palate, waiting for corrective surgery, funded by that charity?

What if you’d lost that beloved dog and your child cried himself to sleep at night out of sadness for his missing friend?

What if you were that homeless person, who’d tried everything, and still lost it all anyway?

It is a deliberate decision to be kind.

Sometimes kindness is as easy as simply seeing, acknowledging: saying please and thank you. Offering a hand to an elderly person or someone with a physical disability when they’re struggling. Picking up your own trash.

Sometimes it’s harder: giving your time, your money, your heart, to help others. Kindness isn’t accidental. It’s deliberate. You can become accustomed to being kind, to thinking of others, but it never becomes something you slip and do by mistake. Because goodness isn’t a mistake, it’s never a mistake. Some people make their lives from being kind and doing good. They can be any race, creed, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, yada yada. Just like cruelty and evil, kindness and good knows no divisions in humanity. It’s equally available to us all…but we have to choose it.

If more people actively chose to be kind rather than callously allowing cruelty, this world would be a much different place. No, it could never be perfect. But it’d be better.

So tell me, what would you do if today were your last day?

Sure, run around like a crazy person, or fall into despair? Right?

But, whew, it’s not your last day. Right?

I have a secret, though: today is your last day.

No, you’re (probably) not dying of some fatal disease or preparing to meet your end in accident or in malice at the hands of others. I hope not. But it’s still true: tomorrow never comes.

Tomorrow is today. The future is never here: it’s always the present. The past is gone, and any mistakes you made are impossible to undo—but you can choose not to repeat them. You can choose to make today different than yesterday, you can make it better, for yourself and, hopefully, others.

Live today like it’s your last day.

Don’t put things off until tomorrow—tomorrow never comes. Before you know it, you’ll have grown old and opportunities will have passed you by…if you didn’t pass them up deliberately.

Go about your daily existence and stop being blind, start seeing opportunities to do good, to be kind. You never know what difference an encouraging smile can make to someone who is despairing inside. You never know how much your little donation of time or money will change someone’s life, if even for just a moment.

All of us are individuals and have immeasurable possibilities. This has nothing to do with religion. An atheist or the most devout person is the same in this capacity for goodness and evil. You shouldn’t allow yourself to be borne along by others, making excuses for your own lack of action by blaming it on someone else. You’re the captain of your own ship, and you make the ultimate decisions. Choose to steer the right course, and make a difference.

Those of us who have been the recipients of others’ goodness say, “Thank you.” And we try to give it back in like form.

What about you?