Social media isn’t a person. It’s more like a culture, or an entity. Or maybe it’s like The Force on Star Wars. Even though it isn’t a person, we can be irritated by it, overwhelmed by it, grateful for it, moved by it, and sometimes when we log on and read through the posts of people we know (and even people we don’t) strong feelings stir within us.
Sometimes the movement is positive. We are “provoked to love and good deeds,”  which is the best kind of provocation there is.
At other times, the rip current of social media threatens to drag us out to deep waters, and we aren’t strong enough to resist the sinister tentacles that pull us into despair and numbness.
In the case of the latter, I keep on envisioning a silly scenario in which a person comes and sits in the doctor’s office. The person’s name is called by the nurse or a medical assistant, and upon examination, the doctor says to the person:
“Your social media is inflamed. I suggest you lay back, log off, and elevate kindness until the swelling goes down.”
It might be a ridiculous scenario, but it has been helpful for me to keep in mind as the saturation of negative social media reactions and divisions seems to be at an all-time high. Mr. Rogers’ mother told him to look for the helpers when bad things happen. Look. They are there. They might be hidden or they might come in subtle forms we least expect, but in the midst of the struggling, there are people helping.
What if we paused to look for them? Might it help us in some way? Might finding the helpers provoke us to become helpers ourselves? Might training our eyes to find the goodness help us to become part of the movement of goodness as well?
Perhaps in the midst of the suffering and darkness and lack of love, finding the helpers, highlighting the love, and elevating kindness would help the darkness of despair to dissipate, even if only for a moment. And, it might be that kindness and goodness would become habits that endure for the long haul.
So, today, I’m elevating the kind and the good. They are much closer than we might first think.
Every morning at 6:30 AM, a homeless man comes to a business to warm up. The employees give him free coffee, and he’s grateful. The man doesn’t want a handout, but he gratefully takes the coffee, and once it’s gone, he sets to sweeping their sidewalk, or washing tables, or helping with any odd job he can so that he doesn’t feel like he’s taking without giving something back.
In a neighborhood not far from my own, an elderly woman has made a point of getting to know every one of her neighbors. She is the first to meet new people as they move in. She brings plates of cookies, or home-baked bread, and shares of her resources. She is a walking display of hospitality, and people know they can lean on her in times of difficulty.
A school staff person comes to the local library almost every day after school to read with kids and help them with their homework. He finds no greater joy than helping kids to discover their strengths and to grow in confidence as they become better readers.
On a cold, snowy morning, a man took some extra time to shovel the sidewalk and driveway of a woman who lives alone and could use some help. She would never ask for help, but he gives it anyway. In turn, she invites him in for a warm cup of coffee, and she shares stories with him about her grandkids and all they are doing in their lives.
A group of widows and widowers get together and celebrate their birthdays so that birthdays are not a day of sorrow and loneliness. They play cards, and share meals, and they have become a place of support, safety, and warmth.
A family makes a point of getting to know people who have moved to their area from other countries. They go shopping together and help the newcomers adjust to a new culture and location. In turn, this family delights in getting to learn about new cultural customs and traditions.
At a restaurant, four families – all from different religious backgrounds – eat together, and talk about ways faith groups can learn from each other. They find that what separates them is far less than what unites them.
All of the worries and struggles of the world may not be gone. Everything may not have been solved. But, perhaps these kindnesses – these everyday miracles – will provoke us to good deeds and kindness. Let’s lift up goodness and kindness, and perhaps we’ll find ourselves part of a movement that shines light brightly into the world.
——————————- Hebrews 10:24, NRSV.