“You Must Be the Change You Wish To See In The World”- Gandhi
In 1954 John Steinbeck’s novel Sweet Thursday was published.
In 1997 I was a senior in a small town high school and deeply longed for a different life.
Sweet Thursday was a sequel to Cannery Row, and acquired its title because Sweet Thursday is the day after Lousy Wednesday and the day before Waiting Friday.
Sweet Thursday took on an entirely different, and circuitously related meaning for me. Tired of the teen angst and apathy around me, I turned to books for an escape. Steinbeck’s novels appealed to me because, although overly dramatic, I believed I was going through my own Great Depression. The Grapes of Wrath painted so honestly images of people who were persevering in the face of much greater troubles than mine. It was inspiring. So too, were the words of my mother, “Maybe the best way to forget about your own problems is to quit thinking about yourself and do something for someone else.”
I heard her words, but wasn’t ready to listen or act upon them. Instead, I checked out book after book by John Steinbeck from the public library. Eventually, I read Sweet Thursday. And in addition to the books larger themes, I thought about how for many people Wednesdays were lousy and Fridays were the days people waited for the weekends. I thought about how a good portion of many people’s lives were spent sourly waiting for moments they could call their own. For brief sparks of joy. For some small sweetness to satiate them. I decided to take my mom’s advice and create a life not so much about my so called “hard times.”
So, on Thursdays, I began practicing Random Acts of Kindness. Every week I had something to look forward to, a moment to create, some small and bright instant to illuminate my life.
On and off I have continued with my high school idea. It is always a transformative practice for me; though I am too easily distracted and set it aside for convenience. I’d like to begin again, make kindness manifestos public. I’d like to be the change that I wish to see in the world, more kindness….
Maybe I won’t change the world, but I’ll settle for being the better version of myself.