The world may seem like a fairly ugly place right now if one only looks at the headlines. We’ve got President Trump railing about “Rocket Man” at the United Nations, and in return North Korea threatens to attack our country. There are riots in cities and on university campuses, and the mere mention of political topics tends to elicit hate filled arguments. We speak of building walls to keep people out, and watch helplessly as violence appears to be routine. Civility seems to be a thing of the past, and some might argue that it never really existed. There is much talk about how horrid our ancestors were and how much of the population is following in their footsteps. It’s enough to make one believe that we are going to hell in a hand basket, and in fact there are those who predict that the end of the world as we know it will be coming very soon.
Somehow I manage to hang on to the belief that we humans are not nearly as bad as some would have us think. I see far more signs of goodness than hate. I recently learned of a story about high school students who donated thousands of gift cards to their arch rivals at a football game last Friday. The kids had heard that their opponents had suffered more than most in the recent floods in the Houston area, and they decided to do their part to provide them with a bit of relief. What started as a minor effort turned into a very big deal, and it’s not the only instance of service and good works that I have seen of late. In fact, I have been impressed in particular by the efforts of young people in attempting to help their fellow Houstonians during a difficult time.
I have been watching the ongoing story of rescue efforts in Mexico after the horrific earthquake that has claimed so many lives. The heroic efforts to save those buried under the rubble of fallen buildings has kept me holding my breath and praying for both the victims and those who spent days without rest in a race to find as many survivors as possible. It has been touching to see the crowds signaling for silence so that the teams would be able to hear the sounds of cries for help.
In Puerto Rico the destruction from the recent hurricane has been frightening and without power and instant aide it has fallen to ordinary citizens to begin the process of bringing the island back to life. The people have been moving downed trees, picking up rubble and rescuing people trapped by floods. Rather than complaining, they assert that they are ready to do whatever is needed to help their friends and neighbors. Their spirit is something quite wonderful to see.
I hear so many people claiming that we have been overtaken by negativity and hatred, but what I witness day after day is just the opposite. On a regular basis I see teachers working extra hours and spending huge chunks of their paychecks to help their students. In turn I witness students volunteering to care for the elderly, visit the sick or help with animals that have been abused. Complete strangers have come from as far away as Australia and Norway to assist my city after the devastation of hurricane Harvey. Sure there have been a couple of incidents of looting and thievery, but on the whole the response has been good and generous.
I enjoyed the movie Wonder Woman because its theme was one of hope and faith that mankind even with so many imperfections is ultimately a loving species. I believe that to be quite true. My experience has always been that there will be people who provide and that nobody is ever completely alone. It is in our natures to want to be generous. We listen for those cries of help and we respond.
It would be quite easy to be cynical and to close ourselves off from perceived threats, but I choose instead to embrace the world with optimism. We may have some rough times, but ultimately our goodness as humans always seems to find a way of winning the day. We definitely won’t have a chance at happiness if we immerse ourselves in negativity. We have to be willing to trust that our fellowmen and women will mostly be good people with the same kind of dreams that we have.
One set of beliefs insists that we are all born sinful and that we have to be saved. I prefer to think that each of us comes into this world as innocent as can be and that we have the opportunity to become even better as long as we keep trying. There are few people who are lost causes, and most of them are either mentally defective or have been so abused that they have only learned to hate. We need to deal with people on an individual basis rather than making assumptions that they are representative of entire groups or populations.
We have many problems that will only be solved if we learn how to talk with one another again and begin to trust that we each have good intentions but different solutions. If we are able to dialog and work together we will learn how to live with a variety of ideas and actually like them. We have to think of how to keep our nation safe without being unjust. There must be ways to have a fair and controlled immigration system without building walls. We have to consider alternative points of view and ask ourselves how we will meet the costs of programs that we find to be important. All issues are complex and we must be willing to admit that no one of us has all of the answers. Sometimes the best solutions come from the diversity of our opinions.
We might start by taking the time to look at the state of our world without so much hyperbole. The truth is that our goals are much more alike than they are different. We somehow find ways to solve the most difficult of problems when disasters strike. Perhaps we might consider what it is about our instant responses that makes us more cooperative and willing to set aside differences. Maybe it is the simple fact that we don’t overthink when we must react quickly. We just do what seems most needed and important at the moment, and don’t fret over what the consequences will be. Maybe our instincts to be helpful and unselfish are the ones that we should be following most of the time. Let’s have a bit more trust in human nature. I think we may find that we really can count on our fellowman more often than not. We people are actually rather kind. I like knowing that.