Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Monday, February 4, 2013
It really started from a very bad day, you see. Mondays are no one's favourite day, but in my world they are often the perfect storm of bad days, a combination of my writing deadline for the local weekly newspaper, the Intrepid Junior Blogger reluctantly heading back to school after a weekend spent in pyjamas, and facing a laundry mountain that I've neglected for far too long. Add to the mix an encounter with a negative individual and Monday suddenly becomes a very rotten day, which is what happened to me a few weeks ago.
I love all these things, incidentally, writing for the local weekly and the IJB and even clean clothing, but on some days it all feels like a bit of a slog. And the Monday in question was made even tougher with some negativity, because negativity is contagious. I suppose I really first learned this when working in a small business in Toronto decades ago. I loved my boss, but even he would agree he was not an easy man to work for - moody, mercurial, ebullient when happy and miserable when down. The mood swings made it a difficult workplace on occasion, and often after work my co-workers and I would head out for drinks to "decompress". The funny thing I found, though, is that one bad day among all of us quickly soured all our moods. If even one of us had had a tough day with the boss and shared it suddenly we all felt lousy, too. It was a vicious little negativity cycle, but I learned something else then, too - just as negativity is contagious so is positivity.
So, on the Monday in question I dropped the IJB at school, met my deadline (the most hated word in a writer's world is "deadline", just so you know), and tackled the laundry. I packed up and headed out for lunch with a friend, where I told her about my lousy day, and then told two other friends about my woes. And while I felt better after venting I still felt pretty lousy. Then I decided I needed a coffee, and I went to Starbucks in the Safeway downtown.
That's when I discovered my favourite barista was working. Blonde, always cheerful, with a bubbly personality and a perky smile, she served my latte up with her usual good nature, and within minutes I felt better, because she knew nothing about my lousy day. Her good mood was infectious, and when I got back to my car I knew I needed to do something to really improve my day. And so I decided to start #ymmshoutout day on Twitter.
You see I often find the best cure for a bad day is to do something nice for others. On previous bad days I have picked up dozens of donuts and dropped them off to local organizations to brighten their day. I've donated money to a good cause, or gone shopping for the food bank, dropping everything I bought into their collection bin at the grocery store. What I'd noticed is that the simple act of doing good changed my own outlook and mood. So, when I got back into my car, latte in hand, I tweeted that I wanted to do something new by instituting #ymmshoutout Mondays, where we recognized good people, organizations, or works in our community. I wanted to take a day when far too often everything goes wrong and make it into a day when we could make something go right for someone else, even if not for ourselves, and in the end I suspected it would right a few things in our own world, too. I didn't know if the idea would catch on, really, but even if it didn't it would give me the chance to thank people that I wanted to acknowledge.
I was incredibly thrilled to not only see other people picking up on the idea but adding their own shout-outs, recognizing the people who make a difference in their lives. I decided I would retweet and favourite every single #ymmshoutout because every single one deserved a wider audience, and as I said positivity is infectious. By sharing it again and again I could spread it even further, a viral grassroots effort to spread the positives in this community - and of course by sharing it these words of praise would be seen not only by those in this area but by those on Twitter from around the world. It was a way of not only praising those in our community but sharing what is so great about us with the wider world, too. It was telling our story in 140 characters or less.
I'm pleased to say that #ymmshoutout is still going strong. The last couple of Mondays I wasn't even the first one to tweet a #ymmshoutout, as others now remember it is Monday and the day to recognize others. And now the shout-outs are coming on other days, too, random acknowledgements of the great people in this place we call home. Suddenly I don't dread Mondays any more. Instead I rather look forward to them, eager to see who will be recognizing who on this day, and what I will learn (because often I do learn something I didn't know from these shout-outs, too).
There are two reasons I think #ymmshoutout is a success story, and they have nothing to do with me, for the record. First, I think we have so many incredible things going on here that this is an easy place to find things and people to praise. Second, we have so many people who are eager to recognize and acknowledge others, who want to spread the positivity. I don't mean that in some ethereal, spiritual kind of way, as I am far from that sort of person (I don't chant mantras, own a single crystal, or even one Deepak Chopra book - nothing wrong with that stuff, it just isn't me!). I mean it in a very profound, concrete, and real way, a way that sees how sharing a positive story or moment can in fact make your own world a better place. And so while I am quite proud to be the creator of #ymmshoutout I am more proud of those who use this as a way to spread their own positivity to create a better Fort McMurray.
Today, Monday February 4th, I give a big shout-out to all of Fort McMurray and those who live, work, and play in this place I call home. You are why it's so easy to love this place. You are why it was so easy to sit in my car and tweet the very first #ymmshoutout. You are the reason I write this blog at all, and for that I say thank you - thank you for being you.