The Power of Negativity (and what its like to go sort of locally viral for a day)

Last week I was at the grocery store when I started thinking about that awful car accident that happened a few days before. I had just read on Facebook that morning that Officer Ellsworth had passed away, and so I was thinking about it as I did my shopping. Then I started thinking about the girl whose car hit him, and I realized I might have a way to reach her. I wrote the post in about ten minutes flat, didn't even bother to spell check, and posted it.

When I came back an hour later, it had been shared 30 times and viewed over 1,000 times. I also had a message from someone telling me they were going to forward the post on to the girl. I was happy that it had gotten to her so quickly, and that so many people wanted to show their support.
At the same time, I was a little worried. I have yet to see a story on Facebook these days that doesn't have at least a few rude or negative comments. And even worse, this wasn't really my story to be in the middle of. I didn't want to seem disrespectful to either family, and I really didn't want it to look like I was out seeking fame. (For the record, I don't make any money off this blog, so I definitely wasn't seeking fortune.)

But for the next 24 hours, the whole post just basically exploded with love and support for both families involved. I felt really touched and humbled to be a part of it, and I was and am really grateful that my love of writing might have been able to help someone on one of the hardest days of their life.

In the end, the post was shared over 1,200 times on Facebook, and viewed almost 150,000 times. To put that into perspective, if each person only viewed it once, that would be the entire population of the greater Tremonton area, Brigham, and everyone in Logan twice. Unless Blogger is crazy, I had views from Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan. If you know me, I'm small potatoes. Most of my posts get about 100-200 views, and rarely any shares. So to reach an audience that big was huge for me. All I kept thinking was why didn't I bother to spellcheck??? 

It was an interesting day that I might never get to experience again, so I thought I would share a little what it's like to go sort of locally viral.

First, a lot of random people try to add you as a friend. Which I find weird. Can you follow my blog instead? Why do we have to make this personal? This is sort of like when you talk in church and then random people from your ward talk to you in the grocery store because they recognize you but you have no clue who they are. Am I the only one?

The best was the people who I used to be friends with, but who had apparently deleted me at some point and were now trying to re-add me. I had to chuckle about that.

There were also a lot of comments I happened to stumble across on random shares of my post from people I barely knew saying things like, "I know the girl who wrote this!" or "She's one of my best friends!" I wasn't upset with any of it, but thought it was funny and interesting to see how people react when they have a brush with fame. (Even Box Elder County, extremely local fame.)

I got a lot of wonderful messages from people close to this girl and those were the best part. They were all very kind and made me really glad that I had reached out.

Tomorrow, the post will be appearing in The Tremonton Leader and The Box Elder News Journal. I am honored, but as my brother put it, "What is this newspaper you speak of? I'm sure Grandma and her friends will love it!" Still, when I was 12 I wrote a riveting piece about the pledge of allegiance and sent it to the Standard Examiner, and I'm pretty sure my mom still has it framed somewhere. So this is a big deal.

So in the midst of being surrounded by all this love and positivity, it finally happened: my blog got not one but two rude and negative comments. I deleted them the second I saw them, not because no one can disagree with me, but because I wasn't going to let my blog be the place for someone to bring negativity into a story like this. Hopefully, I am one of the only ones who read them. But they still stuck with me. I wanted to fight back, to argue, to tell them they were wrong. I wanted to say that they were missing the whole point of the post, that forgiveness is not only important but completely necessary in a case like that.

But I didn't. (Ok, with the above paragraph, I guess I sort of did... oops.) I decided to let it go because I knew that was best. But it's still stuck with me. Which made me realize: hundreds of kind comments can be completely undone by one unkind comment.

Do we realize the power our negativity has? When we criticize someone, when we talk behind someone's back, even when we post anonymously online? It's the most basic thing we teach children: treat others nicely. But it's becoming less and less important in our society. What's more important is finding your own happiness, and not letting anyone get in the way of that.

I'm not suggesting that we all tiptoe around each other and not try to break our porcelain feelings. I'm just asking that we all think before we speak. That we ask ourselves: Is this constructive? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

We've all been there. I'm sure we could all sit down right now and write a list of the negative things people said to or about us. I could go clear back to childhood if I had to. But I would have a harder time thinking of the kind things.

For some reason, negativity is just more powerful. And sometimes I think we feed off of that. I think that's why the media is the way it is, I think that's why my news feed is generally full of terrible, haunting stories.

So next time you're really feeling down and wondering what happened to all the good in the world, just remember: the negative is more powerful, but that doesn't mean there is more of it. If it takes a thousand kind words to undo one bad one, then there must be a lot of kindness and goodness out there to undo all the bad.

Thanks again to everyone for sharing and commenting and spreading the love last week. I really appreciate it, and from what I've heard from both families, they do as well.

To the 16 year old girl whose car struck Officer Ellsworth

To the 16 year old girl whose car struck Officer Ellsworth last Friday,

I, like the rest of the community, have been thinking about this story a lot. I didn't know Officer Ellsworth, but in such a small town I knew people who knew him. I've met a lot of people this weekend who were upset and depressed about the accident. And every time I forget, there is a new post on Facebook to remind me. Like everyone else, we are all thinking of the family of this highway patrolman.

But I want you to know, whoever you are, that we are also thinking of you.

My birthday is in a couple weeks, and it just dawned on me the other day that this year will mark 10 years since I got my driver's license. I remember my birthday that year was the first Wednesday of the month, which was a late start day. My mom took the morning off work and drove me to the DMV to get my license. Then she refused to let me drive myself to school. Still, I thought I was pretty cool. I can remember that day so vividly. I remember feeling so grown up. But that's the thing about being young: time is different. A year is so long, and you change so much. As you get older, time speeds up. A year passes and you barely notice sometimes. I'm only 25, but I imagine with each passing year, it gets worse.

At 16, I didn't really realize how recently I had been a child. How my parents and grandparents must have still seen me that way.

The first place I got to drive was to my work Christmas party. I wanted to take back roads to elongate the drive and stay away from other drivers, and I ended up getting lost. In Brigham City. It was not the best start to my driving career, and it was definitely a sign of things to come. (I still get lost everywhere I go.)

I just remember it being a fun and exciting new experience. It was like a ticket to adulthood and freedom.

But now, I look back at all the close calls I've had. It's not that I'm a bad driver, it's just that things happen. There were countless cars that almost collided with me, scary snowstorms where I almost slid off the road, even little kids running out in the street and I only just slammed on the breaks in time.

Close calls. Those moments that leave your palms sweaty, your heart beating fast, and teach you to be more alert and careful next time.

I was not ready to drive at 16. But I had to learn somehow. And I am still learning.

What happened last Friday was terrible. But I think one of the hardest parts to swallow was that it had to happen to you.

A girl who got her license less than a year ago. A girl who was a child only a couple years ago. A girl who probably hadn't learned a lot of those hands-on driving lessons, and who had to learn this one the hardest way possible. A girl who is probably scared to drive anywhere now.

I don't know the details of what happened, because I wasn't there. But I do know that the media has been covering this story like crazy. I know that the support from the community must be a huge help for the family. But you... what is it doing to you?

I was relieved to see the family offer forgiveness to you in their statement made yesterday. I want you to know that even without knowing you or them, I can tell you it's heartfelt. I can tell you they won't blame you. No one blames you. Our hearts break for you that you were the one behind the wheel in such a horrible tragedy. But no one blames you.

Whatever you believe, please know that these things happen for a reason. I believe God consecrates even these worst moments in our lives to be for good. When something horrible happens we feel the weight and sadness of it, but it's not usually until later that we find the little miracles, that we realize God was there all along. Watch for the miracles. Wait for the signs from God. And let it remind you that everything that happens to us is for our good.

A few months after I got my license, my oldest brother was in a bad car accident. His girlfriend was driving down the freeway when a car from the other side of the road tried to make a U turn in the emergency turn around. Their car was struck and thrown into a semi, which was then dragged and crushed. My brother, who despite constant reminders throughout his life never wore a seatbelt, was thrown from the car. His legs were dragged along the ground. His girlfriend died instantly.
He should have died. He was in the hospital for a long time. When he finally made it through the worst of it, we were told he would lose his legs. He didn't.
It was a miracle.
But through all those times in the hospital, waiting to hear what would happen, I don't think my family ever had any anger towards the car that caused the accident, or the semi that hit them. I never even remember hearing much about the car that struck them, but I remember hearing about the driver of the semi, who was haunted by what had happened.

I truly believe that we don't always know how we affect people. For all we know, we did something to cause an accident behind us and never saw it happen. But for you, to have this happen and then to have the constant reminders on social media has to be devastating. When I heard today about the passing of Officer Ellsworth, I thought of his wife and kids, and the family we saw yesterday as they made a statement.

But then I thought of you.

And I just hope that there is peace for you.

I hope you can see that our accidents, our mistakes, even our reckless decisions, and the consequences of those actions, are not who we are. We can't be defined by moments like that. So throughout the rest of your life, I want you to remember not to let it define you. It was one moment. And yes, it might be the worst moment of your life, but there will be so many others worth living for. There will be happiness and peace again, if you let it.

It took the family of this Officer only days to offer you their forgiveness, and I'm willing to bet their forgiveness really happened instantly. So if there is any good you can take from this, let it be the ability to forgive yourself. Let it go. Don't live with the weight of this any longer than you absolutely have to.

I hope, as a community, we never learn your name. I hope you are able to take some level of anonymity with this experience. But no matter who you are, just know that we are all thinking of you, praying for you, and most of all, hoping you can move on.

It could have been any one of us behind the wheel that night. And I am so, so sorry that it had to be you.