A new kind of kind new year

There has been much social media coverage in recent days about a Twitter exchange between comedian Sarah Silverman and a troll. In response to a Silverman Tweet, the troll posted a one-word, foul, obscene Tweet.

Silverman is not known for taking prisoners or pulling punches, but this time she responded with a new kind of weapon – compassion.

She looked at the man’s profile and saw that he was suffering in various ways, physically, emotionally and financially. She reached out to the man with kindness, saying that she understood his anger was deeply rooted in pain. She went so far as to Tweet a request to doctors in the man’s home town that they step up to help him with his physical pain, at least. Before long, the uninsured man had medical care and was apologizing to Silverman for his behavior.

This is traditionally what we call “turning the other cheek,” and for most of us it works better in theory than in practice. For some reason there are people out there, perhaps suffering from some pain that none of us can see, who just want to spew ugliness. They somehow need to call names and proudly criticize, usually through social media. Their voices become strangely mute in any one-on-one encounter with a real, live person.

How much is too much? Where do we draw the line between what will allow us to turn the other cheek and what will cause us to lash out in response? Only a saint can turn that cheek no matter what the attack. I am suggesting that in this new year, as so much fear, pain and anger sweeps across our country, we all try pushing that line a little further out.

It is easy to criticize. It is so easy to hate rather than face what you fear. It is so much harder to reach out, to be part of the solution rather than the source of more problems.

But consider, please, that just about everyone is dealing with some kind of pain, worry, disability, loss. In recent weeks, it has seemed like just about everybody I know is struggling to deal with some situation or another. You may not know it to look at them, but just about the last thing they need is someone taking another shot at them. And consider that the shot you take may be the last one they can handle.

On the other hand, your kindness and compassion may change that person’s life forever.

It’s going to be a challenge, but I hope that everyone will stop and think before making that next ugly post or Tweet, or judging someone harshly. Let’s truly make 2018 a kinder year.