It was a seemingly innocuous enough Facebook update:
If you are capable of complex, critical thinking, I love you.
If you aren’t, I still like you well enough, but I probably won’t bring you homemade baked goods.
I wrote it in response to my frustration with our culture’s tendency to rush to judgment, to get emotionally swept up in whatever media firestorm of the moment is blazing, to succumb to knee-jerk reactions to events in our world without taking time to think more deeply, ask thoughtful questions and form our own opinion. Social media these days seems to only exasperate the mob-mentality of the moment. We “like” or retweet quotes, platitudes, opinions of others and adorable kitten photos in a click of a mouse. And sure, I like to see the things and causes my friends are connected to, even if it’s just a forwarded post. But some days I troll the depths of my Facebook feed, ravenously hungry for an original thought, a humorous anecdote of an experience, an honest expression of how someone’s day has been–even if it’s been awful–only to log off minutes later, still hungry for something of substance. I’m not talking about great writing–just something real, not re-hashed. Tell me how you feel. Tell me how the news has made you sad/mad/happy/afraid. Tell me why. And then tell me more.
I didn’t mean for my Facebook post to stir up controversy.
Shortly after I posted my proclamation, I began to hear from friends.
“Hey, I am capable! Send me a cheesecake!”
“You’ve never brought me homemade baked goods…does that mean you think I’m stupid?”
“You love me! Can I have brownies?”
Holy hell. What did I get myself into?
So I started to think about it. And I started to think of my Facebook friends and beyond, some of whom I know very well and some of whom I’ve never met but whose musings and postings never fail to provoke me. They nudge me into deeper thinking, encourage me to educate myself about a cause, an event, a person, a film, music, etc. Maybe introduce me to something I never knew existed before, perhaps a new way of looking at an old idea. I love these friends. I don’t always agree with them, either. But that’s okay. I love that my circle of friends includes people of many faiths, many beliefs, many political persuasions, varied tastes in music and sports and food and yoga. I love that we don’t have to agree.
I love thoughtful, provocative, passionate people.
I want to send you homemade baked goods.
No, really, I do.
I’m going to ask for something in exchange, however. Not much, but simply a paragraph. Email it to me, along with your shipping address. A paragraph comprised of just a few sentences or many. In the paragraph, tell me about something you believe in deeply. Your conviction. It could be about world events, politics, religion, yoga, science, art or whatever. Hell, it could be about unicorns, for all I care. Tell me why you believe what you believe and what life experiences shaped your beliefs. Tell me how you came to feel the way you feel. It doesn’t need to be somber, but I do want you to take this seriously. So, if you believe in unicorns, for god’s sake, be earnest about unicorns! But don’t tell me that you believe what you believe simply because you’ve always been told that’s the way it is. Or because it’s easy. Or because someone on Facebook said you should. Think for a moment. And then think deeper.
And here’s the thing…your paragraph won’t be graded or judged. I don’t have to agree with what you write. Your writing doesn’t have to be brilliant, or even that well written at all. I’ll even try to overlook spelling errors. (That’s a big one for me, so do your best. Spell check, baby.)
But I do want to hear from you. I really, really do.
I am a cynic at heart, so my expectations are low. I realize everyone is busy in their busy lives and sometimes one more thing seems like one more thing too many. A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about my propensity to hoard greeting cards. (You can read it here) I asked everyone to help me let go of some of my many greeting cards that I keep wrapped in a plastic bag in the back of a filing cabinet in my office. All I asked for was a mailing address and, in turn, I would send you a card in the mail with a handwritten sentiment inside. I’d write a little about what our friendship means to me. Who doesn’t like getting a card in the mail? Apparently, a lot of folks. Out of all the people who read my blog, I received addresses for maybe a dozen. Maybe.
And now I’m asking for more than an address, I’m asking you to think and express and write. Just a little. Are you game?
After I read your email, I will send you homemade baked goods. I can’t tell you what exactly, but I can tell you that I am a kick-ass baker. Seriously. I will send you a half-dozen or so homemade cookies, or brownies, or sweet bread. (I can’t cater to allergies at all, so if you are vegan or gluten-intolerant or have issues with nuts, or anything along those lines, I’m sorry but I just can’t get that specialized. I’d be happy to send you a card, though. Got plenty of those left.) I’ll box it all up and send it your way for you to enjoy with a tall glass of milk or a lovely flute of champagne.
This is my way of expressing my appreciation to the provocative thinkers in my life, virtual or otherwise.
So, surprise me. Provoke me. Challenge me to think about something in a brand new way. Tell me what makes you you. Exceed my low expectations and write it all down and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Type “Smart Cookies” in your subject line and include your shipping address. If you are in Canada, it may be months before your package arrives. You Canadians probably already know that.
I’m setting a deadline for this challenge because I think we all work more productively with one. I’d like all paragraphs emailed to me by Monday, August 12th. That gives you three weeks. Three entire weeks to write a few or more thoughtful sentences in exchange for homemade baked goods. I’ll start mailing the sweets out mid-August.
I think that’s a reasonable exchange, don’t you?