As the Canadian election process drags on, I’ve noticed many in my social media circles publishing comments critical of one party or another. All fair game to be sure.
But as the days pass I also notice more insults and name calling as well as people getting downright mean to those who disagree with them.
Meanwhile, in my own life, I got a call from the wife of one of the guys I went to school with, letting me know that he’d passed away. She also forwarded me a copy of something she’d found in his desk.
When it arrived, I recognized it immediately. It was the “Buck Up List”.
The buck up list was born somewhere around Grade 8.
Something had happened at school or in class that got all of us kids quite exercised. Thinking back, I have absolutely no recollection of what it was. But it led to ongoing arguments, a few fights and a lot of name calling.
All of us seemed to go out of our way to be unpleasant with one another. Our teacher did his best to referee, but it was clear nobody was budging.
So one Friday afternoon, he asked us to look around the class and write down one thing –- just one –- that we liked or admired about each of our classmates.
The writing took a long time. And I can remember making eye contact with a couple of those who weren’t on my side of the feud, all of us struggling a little to find something positive to say.
As soon as we were done, our teacher asked us to hand in our comments unsigned and dismissed us for the weekend.
Monday morning he handed back typed lists he had made over the weekend of all the comments that had been made about each of us. He dubbed it our “Buck Up List”.
It was quite a revelation to read an endless page of compliments, discovering people thought you were great at things you yourself didn’t think you were or had admirable personality traits you didn’t know you possessed.
All of us were kinda stunned. I noticed one or two of the girls brushing aside tears. It might’ve been the biggest boost to our self esteem any of us had ever had.
None of us knew who had said the words we most took to heart, for all we knew they may have even come from the person we had decided to hate the most.
Our teacher suggested we put our page somewhere safe and pull it out anytime we were feeling down or defeated or without the tools required to overcome one of Life’s hardships.
I bet we all did. And although I long ago lost mine, my friend had hung onto his. His list also included hand-written guesses as to who he thought (or maybe hoped) had said something nice about him.
I honestly don’t remember if I was the author of the comment he attributed to me. But I noticed that the girl who found him “really cute” had become his wife.
The anonymity of social media and the fact that we don’t see the reactions to our words allows us to be far less restrained in what we put out there. I wonder what would happen if we were as equally unbridled in our praise…