I recently watched the movie Lee Daniel’s The Butler with Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding Jr. And others. This movie affected me a ton. I know I’m late to it, but I made up by watching it twice in a row. The Civil Rights Movement has always affected me with a ton of emotions. Sadness and anger are at the top, but once that settles, I feel afraid and worried for human kind. I start to worry about the fate of humans, how we can treat each other like this. This might have happen decades ago, but it’s still happening across the globe, yes and still in our own country. We still have injustice between the treatment of minorities and women. In many states there are laws being passed that limit women’s rights and take much needed funding away from the working poor.

When I started grad school one question they asked at the beginning was, are people basically good or basically bad. I answered equivocally that they are good. I still believe this to be true, but I think the answer is more in-depth that just one option or the other. I believe when people are raised to be good, they can be. But when they are faced with environmental obstacles that have them confused about what it means to be a decent and kind human being, they may appear to be bad. I also believe that in order to survive, people may do bad things. And then sometimes, I think that people are just using what I just said as an excuse to do bad behaviors. This reminds me of an article I read in the New York Times about survivors and their offenders. Many of these people have grown up the same way, in a horrible situation where general necessities are difficult to come come and rape, incest, robbery and murder are common day. But people still rise above this and choose to act differently. Survivors even choose to forgive their offenders, offenders try to do better. What makes someone forgive? What makes them decide to take the harder and higher road towards a kinder life and existence? What makes people chose to be mean, violent, vindictive? And how do we cope with the knowledge that humans can be bad and can be good at different times in their life? How do we cope with our own family members and loved ones treating us poorly or with abuse?

One way is to point out more often when people are doing good. To say thank you to your family when they treat you with kindness and respect. To reach out to strangers with that same kindness and respect. It doesn’t matter what our race is, what our political views are, where we grew up, how we grew up, how much money we have or don’t have, it matters how we decide to treat other people, including our own family and pets. Including ourself. Perhaps that’s the first place we can begin, treating our self better today than we did yesterday and even better tomorrow. Imagine if we could love our self as much as we love others, as much as our dogs and cats love us. What kind of world would we live in then?

Take time to love yourself today, to love others and to be a decent and kind person who stands up for injustice with peace and love in your words and intentions.