Since I spend so much of my time on this blog slagging on myself (I got low self-esteem), here are a few things that I do to make my tiny corner of the world a tiny bit better.
1. I smile and say "thank you" and "please" to clerks and waiters. Having done some truly menial jobs in my life, and not being a complete tool, I understand that other people are not on this earth for my personal pleasure, even when their jobs require them to "serve" me. It seems rather obvious to say (citing Kant) that other human beings are ends in and of themselves, not means to your own ends. But based on sad-but-true tales found on such sites as Insane Waiter, it probably needs to be said more. Which is sad, really.
2. I leave shopping carts in the return area, not the parking lot. It's not in any way a hassle to do this, and not only does it relieve the burden of grocery store employees, it protects the other cars from dents. (Worst of all is the asshole who leaves a cart in a parking space.) It amazes me how few people are able to empathize; they just can't get it into their skulls that the cart they leave rolling around the parking lot as they drive away is the same cart that gets in their way when they pull in another day and prevents them from parking. See, it all goes back to that little Golden Rule thing you may have heard about. In any case, Tubby, you need to work off those Twinkies before you heft yourself into your car, so how's about waddling the damn cart the thirty feet required to prevent it from becoming a nuisance?
3. I try not to let petty things irritate me to the point where I have to let the whole world know how petty I am. I'm talking about little stuff like when the car in front of you doesn't drive away for a few seconds after the light turns green, or when some clueless dolt cuts in front of me in a line. I'm not saying I'm Buddha --- these things do piss me off, unfortunately. What I'm saying is that life is too short to let that irritation control you, and honk at people with slow reaction times or act like an entitled dick just because someone's too stupid to realize where the line starts. Let the little things go, I say. Sure, you don't want to be a doormat, but a little humility never hurt anyone. Like Caine in "Kung Fu," brush off the absurd, quotidian injustices in life and save your righteous ire for things that matter.
4. In a similar vein, I try to treat everyone the same. The yuppie creep who'll loudly castigate a dippy old lady who cut him off would probably keep very quiet and still if the same was done to him by some 275-pound UFC wannabe. That's being a power tripper and a hypocrite, two qualities I strenuously try to avoid in my life. The Victorians and the ancient Chinese agreed that a gentleman was someone who acted with the same courtesy in the presence of inferiors and superiors. That's good advice. I'm not going to back down from a fight if it needs to happen, but there are honestly very, very few times that fighting is a better option than ceding ground.
5. In my simple, probably ineffectual way, I do try to cut down my "carbon footprint." I unplug the microwave when it's not in use (why the hell do I need a clock there?). I turn off the DVD player. I drive a fairly fuel-efficient Toyota, and I don't take pointless trips. I don't consume mindlessly; I buy very little. I reuse things. I buy recycled paper products, and recycle. On the other hand, of course, I am a resource-guzzling upper-middle-class white American male, and my lifestyle perforce uses a disproportionate amount of energy. Sorry, Third Worlders.
6. I teach young children and I am very good at my job. I honestly believe that teaching is the most important job in the world. Opening minds and imbuing confidence in the next wave of humans. Too bad there are so few teachers who succeed.
Also, here is a word game that I've been wasting my time on recently.