On the walk into the VA and up to my office I've gotten in the habit of smiling and greeting the vets I pass. I've also started regularly taking walks around inside the main hallways when I have some free time or (more likely) when I need to get the hell away from my desk and reconnect with humanity. On those walks I greet people and offer a big, genuine smile. Most of the time I also encounter someone who is lost, and I get to walk them to where ever it is they're trying to go (I found two today!). The VA I work at is currently the second largest federal building, behind the Pentagon, so there's a lot of walking and a lot of people getting lost. All the time.
When I think about the job I get to do within mental health, it really is an honor and privilege. Yes, I feel more like a square peg in a round hole there for many reasons, but in large part I also feel a great deal of gratitude just being able to work with the patients I do. I tell my them that often, but I don't think they really believe me.
In part it is because of their service and sacrifice, that they answered a call to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Obviously there is much to be said about the gratitude for that. Another part of it though is that something about their service tells me that they care about others or at least wanted a better life for themselves. Despite whatever tough or grizzled exterior, lack of emotion, or explicit anger toward the world they may present with, they're still people with heart wandering around a place looking for care and healing.
But of course then I guess we all are.
As a psychology resident, I've learned a lot about the goodness in people, and I've learned just as much about it through my faith and my own therapy (which has been lots, believe me). It's easy to go with the trends of trying to impress people or tune people out and instead get buried in our phones. But the thing I have seen and the thing that I will continue to believe all the days of my life is that we need to see goodness in other people. We need to see the goodness in ourselves. Often we don't realize how many chances we have every day to do this. Many days there will be crap piled on top, but you would be surprised how quickly the crap melts away when someone genuinely smiles and asks how you're doing.
Yes, bad, unimaginable things have happened and will happen again, I will fail, I will be disappointed and hurt, and there is evil in the world, but I have the choice to contribute positive or negative energy to the world. Some days my tank is empty, and I can't, so I appreciate all the more the days when I can forget whatever else is going on for a bit and be in the moment with the people I pass in the hall. I put aside what happened that morning or what might be waiting for me in my office, and I'm just there in those hallways, trying to do my part to make someone else smile and feel seen.
I recommend you give it a shot, in your work or school, or neighborhood, and see what happens and how you feel after. I dare you to make some positive moments in your day and maybe in the day of someone else.