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Monday, April 03, 2006

We wore black... What next...?

I woke this morning to see that a colleague had changed their MSN Messenger display name to, "We wore black yesterday. What are we supposed to do today?" It got me to thinking about how quickly we as Trinibagonians are to jump on a bandwagon and make much ado of an issue, only to see things fizzle slowly away because nobody ever bothered to help us figure out how to drill it down to a personal level, or how to turn grief and disdain into personal action.

Surely, the murder of Sean Luke is one of the most tragic events of our recent history. All the same, we responded to the call and showed solidarity with the family of the young man. We wore black. We drove with our headlights on all day. Some of us even went to the funeral and extended our sympathies, or maybe we just went to see what we could see for ourselves. Many of us marched the streets of Port of Spain with the Keith Noel 136 Committee. We placarded. We sang. We begged the Governement to do something about the crime situation. And at the end of the day, what difference does it really make if on a personal level we sit back and do nothing else?

People would ask the question, "what in heavens name can I do? I'm just one Trini hoping to keep myself and my family safe day by day..." And so after all the lacouray, because we have no answers and no desire to find any, we return to the safety of our barricaded homes, hoping against hope that the madness will come to an end all on its own, or that the security forces will do something, or that the bandits will eventually run out of fellow bandits to kill. We sit in the relative safety of our living rooms and offices and talk about how much is not being done. We read the papers and lament that the Police didn't have the intelligence information to prevent the latest murder or kidnapping or whatever bad news the media decides to sensationalise as their lead story on that day. We're quick to berate everyone's efforts at anything, and we always have big ideas about what someone else can or should be doing.

It's about time we stopped bumping our gums and that we all got up and did something ourselves.

What can you do, you ask? I'm not suggesting that we all go up into Laventille and Marabella and do mediation with the gangs and social work with the poor. Nor am I saying that we put ourselves in peril to stop that purse snatcher that will run past us on Charlotte Street, even though if enough of us tried to get him, there's no way that he could get away. There's three things, very simple things that each of us can do. If we all try together and we're consistent, we'll surely make a difference.

1. STOP DOING ONE THING THAT'S NOT GOOD

Have you ever taken a chance and run down the shoulder on the highway, or made an illegal drive down the bus route? What about that sweetie paper or gum wrapper that you absently toss into the drain? Or the stray dog that you kicked? Or the driver that you cursed because he was more hurry than you and almost ran you over? What about the fact that there's that co-worker that you don't say "Good morning" or "Good evening" to because you just don't like their head? What about the child that you shouted at today because you just didn't have patience with them anymore? We each have one illegal or mindless or foolish thing that we can stop doing, no matter how small. There's always one negative thing that, if we think about it hard enough, we can discipline ourselves to consistently avoid. And don't pretend that there's not even one little thing. None of us are perfect.

2. START DOING ONE THING THAT'S GOOD

Having stopped doing something that's not good, fill the void with something that's good. It will take nothing for you buy a ten-dollar box of chinese food one day in the month for that sleeping vagrant that you stepped over on your way down Frederick Street. It takes nothing out of you to smile and pleasantly say "hello" or "excuse me" when you walk into a store before you launch into, "allyuh have...?" Stop your car, and let the little old lady trying to cross the road cross. Put the 37-cents change that you got that you're going to lose anyway in the FEEL or Salvation Army or TTSPCA or whatever donation tin next to the cash register. Just like the bad thing, it doesn't have to be some huge press-worthy effort. Do something, anything, because it's just nice to be nice.

3. SPREAD THE WORD

Now that you've stopped doing something dumb and you've started doing something nice, look for company. You don't have to start a political movement or a committee or an organisation. You just need to find one other person to spread the message of goodwill to, and get them to do what you're doing too.

What good will this do, you ask?

Imagine what would happen if even one quarter of our million and a half citizens stopped dropping sweetie paper and doubles paper and styrofoam cups in the road. Can you see already how much cleaner the streets and highways would be?

Imagine how smoothly traffic would flow if we just showed some patience and didn't sit in the intersection when our light was going from yellow to red.

Imagine how much more pleasant a trip to town would be if just one stranger with whom our two eyes made four smiled and muttered, "have a nice day."

The vagrant wouldn't have to tear up the garbage looking for food if just 21 people each paid for one meal on one day a week.

If a charity had just 100 donation tins on store counters all over Trinidad and ten miscellaneous people deposited $1.00 each week day in each tin, the charity will have collected at least $20,000 in a single month toward their efforts.

Don't think that your little bit does nothing. A little bit goes a long way if there are lots of little bits together. So remember:

1. Stop doing one bad thing
2. Start doing one good thing consistently
3. Spread the word

Together, my Trini people, we can make a world of difference here at home.

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