I can still remember exactly what I was doing when the world changed. I was sitting on the couch, eating Eggo waffles, and watching TV before school. When I saw the footage of a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers, my first thought was that it was an accident. A terrible and tragic one, but an accident nonetheless. Terrorism just wasn’t on my radar. But then I saw the that other tower had been hit by a plane as well. Something wasn’t right.
The 9/11 attacks changed the way I viewed the world, for better and for worse. At sixteen, I was introduced to the ugly realities of war, of evil, of fear. But I also saw photos of the first responders amidst the rubble, read story after story of the heroic men and women who saved the lives of others, many losing their own lives in the process. I watched the citizens of this country raise flags and hold hands, united.
Eighteen years later, it is easy to forget how we once stood together. Biased reporters, vehement voices from both ends of the political spectrum, and the vast amount of depressing news everywhere you look enable feelings of anger, resentment, anxiety. Fights erupt over our differences, instead of bonding over what we have in common. People are afraid to leave their homes, to send their children to school.
But if we open our eyes, we can still see the good around us. We can still see the America that our soldiers fought and died for, the America that we were proud of on September 12, 2001.
Look for the joy around you. My older daughter painted “kindness rocks” at school last week, and now as a family homework project, we will be painting more rocks with inspiring messages and spreading them around our neighborhood. A simple little thing to bring a smile to someone’s face.
Filter out the negative news on your phone. Wave to the person who let you merge in front of them. Pay for the car behind you at the drive-through. Listen. Volunteer. Help someone in need. Smile and say hi to people you don’t know. Hand-write a note and mail it to a relative, or call a friend you haven’t talked to in months. Plant flowers, pick up trash. Watch the sunset. Remember those we have lost. Practice compassion. Read books to children, play cards with the elderly. Stop scrolling through social media, turn off the TV, and talk to your spouse. Bake cookies for your neighbors. Be the good in this country. DO GOOD.
Now I’m going to go join my younger daughter in singing “God Bless America.” What are you going to do?