Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Spirit of Encouragement

Timmy's notes: The writer of this piece has asked me to remain anonymous, and I am respecting their wish, but this article is meant for all of you to reflect on what the real purpose of this blog is, and to reflect on how we act in society to one another. Please read it and truly think about what it means. Express your thoughtful thoughts and opinions on it, too, if you'd like, in the comments section.

The Spirit of Encouragement

Over the past many weeks and months, comments on this valuable community service publication given to all of us for free and, at great expense of the journalist who runs this place have served to remind us all that we CAN respond to nastiness as a like-minded community without stooping to the level of internet bullies who create such harmful comments. One certain commenter admitted being drunk in the comments section in an apology given after the commenter saw the devastation such mean spirited comments had on everyone.

The author writing this piece on the spirit of encouragement has made a special place for shining the spotlight on abuse of the internet and the anonymity it gives to some of the wrong people in the work this author does. Before we can be encouraged, sometimes we have to go through a process of growth that is sometimes painful as we look at ourselves in the mirror. Life has a way of tearing us down and re-building us as we do the work of dealing with ourselves. Why does this matter to a community crime blog? Because crime happens as a result of letting ourselves get out of control and refusing to grow up while learning even greater amounts of responsibility for ourselves. Irresponsible behavior breeds and becomes crime.

This is not to preach, this is not to tell people how they should live, or what choices they should make. This is to remind the community that we cannot ignore the bullying pandemic, and that we are each the answer to the problem in our own ways. No one can tell anyone what they want to hear, no one can give easy answers for your pain. There are wounds time will not wash clean if we walk the dark places of our lives forever in the rain. We need to remember that the world is full of great people who are not well known and are most times right there in front of us.  The world is in need of each of us to get out into the community and build friendships, to get to know new people who will more than likely welcome your outstretched hand if only you kindly offer it.

What that means for those who don't quite grasp it, is this: A friendly wave and smile, a friendly person who makes small talk that builds into meaningful conversation, a person who knocks on their neighbor's door to see if they need anything, a watchful eye on the block who sees beyond the fault to the need and takes time to offer their ear, or offer some compassionate act such as a few words of encouragement are more meaningful than many of you appreciate.

You never know when that kind act of friendliness or compassion persuades someone to forget that crime they had planned. You never know when that act stops an angry / depressed person from doing something very serious such as suicide or some violent act to someone else. Anyone can easily find the bad things about another person, and the real challenge comes when we purposely start looking for the good strengths in another person. Judgement and bullying are learned behaviors. Everything we do is a behavior of some sort. Behavior communicates a great many things with just one momentary word or act. Living the life that matters is what we need to focus on as individuals and as a collective people. 

Bullying has been the cause of countless violent crimes, has been the cause of serious PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, and suicides. A bully uses freedom of speech as his/her defense, and will always say something along the lines of "well, if you don't like it, don't look or listen." "ignore it" or "what business is it of yours?". What all of this has in common with each statement and in turn, with the behavior and the pandemic of bullying is that bullies say and think these things as a way to turn the responisibility away from themselves for their behavior and their choices. 

Those of us with any amount of conscience hurt to some degree when we see or hear someone else hurting or getting their spirit crushed. People see or hear words and are oftentimes oblivious to the fact that words become actions in and of themselves because words can be used to teach, inspire, correct, encourage, tear down, hurt, and can even be used as weapons. Back many years ago in the 80s, a TV commercial focused on child abuse said "words are like fists". This applies to scenarios outside of child abuse and outside of the oft misused "kids will be kids" mentality. Even grown people have feelings and a spirit that can be crushed. No one of any age has to be the victim of harmful words.

When it comes to the internet, we have a great opportunity to use it for good will and promoting diplomatic ways of communicating across cultures, languages, political and social spheres, financial classes, etc. Electronic communications holds great potential for many noble uses that can and have changed the world. When we use it to cause harm, to cause distress, to harass, to stalk, to malign, to attack, to bewilder, to torment and kill; we open the door for political leaders in positions of high power to impose draconian legal restrictions that harm and even violate free speech guarantees. Understand that internet anonymity is not yet a legal right as we continue to test the boundaries between public safety needs and individual rights to privacy in the digital age.

The truth is that we are better off supporting each other in the pursuit of living the everyday human experience than we are using the internet to commit harmful acts to each other. This author is of the position that it shocks the conscience to see people use internet anonymity to engage in harmful behavior to others while the offender chuckles or even laughs heartily at the keybord in amusement of their antics. In a spirit of encouragement, I implore all of you to create safe spaces on the internet for our local communities that can be used to engage each other in positive discussion that is protected from ridicule and abuse. If we instead, create safe spaces out here for positive internet loitering and community discussion about encouraging things, we take away the audence that internet bullies seek out. When a bully has no audience to engage, they have nowhere to act out. 

I'm willing to bet each and every one of you that Chicago neigbors citywide who create open and protected safe spaces on the internet will breed strong friendships that will have never otherwise been made. As a good real life example, the Logan Square listserve has seen their group have library meetings for people seeking jobs to work on resumes, gatherings for gardening projects, restaurant gatherings for local community members, farmers market gatherings, and all sorts of good things.

Let us encourage each other, not tear each other down! Summer is approaching and crime waves will happen. We need to support our communites, not cause more harm. 

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