It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
I was sitting in my hotel room in New York a few nights ago feeling unsure about what to write this week.
Monday was Random Acts of Kindness Day. Friday was National Caregivers Day. I knew that in some way I wanted to write about both. I knew that I wanted to write about the power of caring and kindness, and that I wanted to honor all the caregivers out there who are doing tireless work to care for others and move humanity forward. I live in awe of their generosity and kindness every single day.
Then I watched the Democratic debate Wednesday night, and I was left feeling rather unsettled afterward. In fact, I thought about them the whole next day. I thought about the attacks, the takedowns, and the gotcha moments. I thought about how unkind some of the comments were, and about how the whole thing played out like a heavyweight fight in Las Vegas. I sat there wondering to myself, "How did we get here?"
So many people shared a similar sentiment with me afterward. They told me they feel discouraged. Hopeless. "What’s happening to our country?" they asked. "How do we fix this divide? How do we stop screaming at each other and stop trying to take each other down?"
My response to them: the divide can only be closed by us. The screaming and yelling can only be stopped by us. The caring, the kindness, and the optimism we want our leaders to exhibit...well, we can exhibit it ourselves.
Then, out of the blue, I saw a tweet from a fellow NBC journalist giving me a shoutout for a kind interaction we shared. Her name is Vicky Nguyen and she does excellent consumer reporting for NBC News. I had met her for the first time that morning while co-anchoring the 3rd Hour of TODAY.
Vicky's message stopped me cold. We had only exchanged a few words that morning before going our separate ways. Her words were unexpected and touched my heart. I was moved that someone who I had just met a few hours ago would take a moment to say something so nice.
Each of us has the ability to care. Each of us has the ability to make someone's day, week, or life with an act of kindness. Vicky made my night after I saw her tweet. My daughter's friend Seymone made my day last Saturday when she sent me a poem that reminded her of me. My friend Eddie, who drives me to TODAY in the wee hours of the morning, always makes my time in New York so much better. In a city that can feel cold and overwhelming, he makes it warmer. He encourages me forward every day with his words, his motivation, and his inspiration.
Being kind to another human being is powerful. When you are on the receiving end of someone’s kindness, your heart feels full. You feel connected. You feel less alone. You suddenly feel good about your life and your future.
I was especially blown away this week by the caring and kindness exhibited by our Sunday Paper ambassadors, who were profiled on Hoda and Jenna's show for the way they have come together in community and helped their fellow human beings. (You can watch the story below.) This remarkable group, led by Sheri Lyons, has invited total strangers to their table and, in doing so, they have broadened the scope of family and changed people's lives. Their caring and kindness has left me speechless.
While there is only one Sheri Lyons in the world, there are many versions of her out there. You are probably one of them. Every day, I meet people who are doing their very best to make our world kinder, more caring, and more compassionate. They don’t garner headlines, but they are out there working on the frontlines of humanity, making a difference one heart and one life at a time.
One thing I know for sure is that this election year is only going to get more intense. Politics has always been nasty, and sadly it feels like it's just going to keep getting nastier. One of the debate's most uncomfortable moments for me was when Amy Klobuchar turned to Pete Buttigieg and asked him, "Do you think I’m dumb?" when he seemed to press her on why she hadn't known the name of Mexico’s president during a previous interview.
The candidates think we want them to knock each other out. Meanwhile, the press plays it up in the spin room, piling on the heat as they declare winners or losers. We the people don't have to follow along, though. We don’t have to repeat a certain someone’s snide remarks or degrading nicknames about those who are running for the highest office in the land. We don’t have to jump all over each other and pronounce each other as winners or losers.
Instead, we can exhibit the values and the traits that we want to see displayed in the world around us. We can treat each other with kindness and show those around us that we care.
What brought me hope this week was all the people I encountered who care. The Sunday ambassadors brought tears to my eyes. Vicky's words touched my heart. My kids calling to say hello made my day. My colleagues at TODAY who I co-anchored with this week were warm, inviting, generous, and kind. My friend from first grade joined me for dinner and filled my evening with joy and memories.
While the debate left me feeling down, the conversations I had with my fellow Americans brought me back to a hopeful place. In fact, I spoke to some Architects of Change who said that while they didn’t like the tone of the debate, it did make them reflect on their own tone and their own behaviors. It made them think about how they can be beacons of light. It made them think about how we can work to bring our country together.
In the end, that's a very good thing.
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Dear God, please allow us to be a beacon of light in this world. May we all remember that we have the power to come together and move humanity forward. Amen.
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