Spread some goodness everywhere you go.

My priest quoted Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos during the homily last Sunday and it changed me:

[…] I tell them that if you ask a fly, “Are there any flowers in this area?” it will say, “I don’t know about flowers, but over there in that heap of rubbish you can find all the filth you want.” And it will go on to list all the unclean things it has been to. Now, if you ask a honeybee, “Have you seen any unclean things in this area?” it will reply, “Unclean things? No, I have not seen any; the place here is full of the most fragrant flowers.” And it will go on to name all the flowers of the garden or the meadow. You see, the fly only knows where the unclean things are, while the honeybee knows where the beautiful iris or hyacinth is. As I have come to understand, some people resemble the honeybee and some resemble the fly. Those who resemble the fly seek to find evil in every circumstance and are preoccupied with it; they see no good anywhere. But those who resemble the honeybee only see the good in everything they see. The stupid person thinks stupidly and takes everything in the wrong way, whereas the person who has good thoughts, no matter what he sees, no matter what you tell him, maintains a positive and good thought.

This is not a “live, laugh, love” essay. America has an unprecedented number of spiritually ill people in it. Most days I am spiritually ill. We must jumpstart the engine by doing good things in the world. It will do us no good to make meme pages or to lambast the “other side’s” politics (guilty) — I am in the process of unfollowing all pages that do so. We not only have to attempt to think beyond those things but we need to act beyond those things. Here are some things I’ve been trying out. We each have our own unique talents — you probably have your own list of good things you can do (if you do, send it and I’ll append it to this essay).

I’m not claiming to be halfway decent at any of these, but when I do them I can feel my compassion and faith grow.

Do good things when it’s not respected or noticed (outwardly). You are autonomous. If you are in a politically obsessed friend group, steer the conversation away from politics. If you are in a workplace full of workaholics, decide your working hours and your family hours and be firm on them, damning the consequences.

Do good things selflessly.

Marry early.

Commit and honor commitments.

If you found the right person, build a family and work dilligently to maintain it — this is a higher good than excelling at a career, travelling to exotic destinations, etc.

When you have very little money, donate part of what you do have. Giving a single dollar when you’re struggling means more than any amount of money a billionaire could donate.

When you have more money, donate not only money but time and resources.

Bake something in bulk and drop it off at your neighbors houses.

Baking something from raw ingredients to share is one of the most fundamentally good things — it is at the intersection of technique, generosity of time, and generosity of resources — almost nobody makes the time anymore.

Give strangers compliments when it’s genuine.

Do good things, don’t be nice. If you give more of yourself than you’re able to, your gifts are tainted and come with expectations — which is not “good”. Doing good things is a skill. You wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon without training up to it. Similarly, start off doing small bits of good and work your way up.

Pray with the faithful when they experience hard times.

Pray in secret for the unfaithful when they experience hard times. Pray also that they might become faithful. Do not tell them you've done this.

Do an extra chore.

Give hugs instead of handshakes when you see an old friend.

If someone asks you about your weekend at work, don’t just say, “it was good” tell them how your weekend was, good or bad. Afterwards, return the question and be receptive to listening.

Make your conversations two-sided.

If your produce drips water on the scanner at the self checkout, clean it with your shirtsleeve when you’re done.

Return your cart to the store.

Fast for extended periods without telling anyone and do good things, it is like goodness-training with a weight vest.

Dress up for church, not just on Christmas or Easter.

Whatever your trade is, do it for free regularly in order to further good causes in the world. Are you a technologist? Think of ways to scale goodness. Are you a plumber? Ask your friends if they need any plumbing fixed.

I recently removed social share links from my site. If you enjoyed what you read, please take the time to tell one person directly about this blog.