Credit: George Danby

Kindness. Respect. Integrity. Not only are these traits vital to our day-to-day lives, but they are essential to our very survival. Regrettably, not everyone is seeing the value in such heart-driven principals, as we are experiencing unsettling times. And despite the immense challenges humanity continues to face, many remain preoccupied with political theatrics rather than engaging in respectful dialogue on ethics and how to build a better world.

To be clear, I recognize the value of staying tuned in. Awareness is imperative, and to dismiss reckless behavior only encourages more of the same. However, for the sake of our emotional well-being, perhaps it would be wise to take scheduled breaks from the insanity. Or better yet, place our attention on what we are for, rather than who or what we are against.

And I’m not just referring to politics.

What we need is a universal shift in how we address all of life’s ordeals. For the mean-spirited method of railing against people, places and unwanted things will ultimately destroy us one text or malicious tweet at a time. But there is an alternative. And it’s as simple as making a mental shift in how we achieve our aspirations.

Personally and professionally, I have seen how being for a cause can create extraordinary results. After starting The Kindness Center in 2007, I began teaching a kindness curriculum in schools as an alternative to the often ineffective “anti-bullying” method. The concept could not be more simple: focus on what you want instead of wasting time and energy fighting what you don’t want. In other words, rather than “stopping bullies” (and ignoring the fact that they are kids who are hurting), we directed the attention onto what everyone wanted: kindness. The result? You guessed it: kinder behavior.

Whether applied to a school, climate change or improving our political climate, this approach just works. It also may be our last chance to remain on this gorgeous blue marble, as there are signs she is growing tired of our antics. Or, as an insightful friend once told me, “Eventually, the Earth is going to say ‘enough already’ and shake us off like a wet dog.”

Human translation: Wake up, people.

It’s time for us to all lay down our arms, take a deep breath and cast a vote for kindness, civility and reverence for all. This referendum, however, has nothing to do with 2020 politics or on which side of the aisle you sit. Instead, it is a life-affirming vote concerning your heart — the very place where polls never close, and the only candidate up for election is you.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “My life is my message.” Of course, this same philosophy applies to all 7.7 billion people on our planet. So I ask you: what is your message in these trying times? Is it one of compassion and unity, or anger and hostility? Chaos or kindness?

Please choose wisely. Your decision will not only determine your legacy, but also our children’s future, the direction of our country and the very fate of humankind.

Michael Chase of Camden is the founder of The Kindness Center.