On any given day the headlines of any publication include the good, the bad and the ugly. That trend pretty much sums up the nature of humanity and history itself. As people it’s actually easier to find the good among and about us, but more often than not we focus on the bad or the ugly. I suppose that is because horrific things are actually more unusual than generosity and compassion. We are fascinated with the bad and the ugly even as we abhor such occurrences.
I scan the headlines each morning as I eat my breakfast. Last week the front page announced the bad news that a six figure income just over one hundred thousand dollars a year in San Francisco qualifies a family to be considered low income and possibly in need of government assistance to provide the basics of food and shelter in that city. It was shocking to realize that such a fine sum of money is insufficient in a town where the median price of a home is over a million dollars. It is a beautiful city that has become almost inaccessible to anyone but the very wealthy. In fact, it suffers from one of the most tragic homeless problems in the nation, and residents complain that the plight of individuals with no place to go is growing exponentially. I find myself wondering how it is so that a city that prides itself in being advanced in so many ways has become more and more segregated by economics.
Yet another quite ugly story from out of California told of an elderly man from Mexico who was severely beaten by a woman in Los Angeles who shouted that he should go back from where he came as she pummeled him with a brick. It’s more than difficult for me to imagine how someone might possibly become angry enough to inflict suchg harm on a stranger. Had she taken the time to determine his story she would have found that he was simply visiting his very legal family as he has done countless times. His vacation turned into a needless nightmare because someone jumped to conclusions that weren’t even accurate. Even if he had been attempting to come to this country without proper paperwork, the violence that he endured was terribly wrong. I suspect that it would not even have warranted mention in the newspaper were it not so unusual, but I worry that there is a kind of growing contagion that encourages more and more people to demonstrate their prejudices with this form of extreme ugliness.
We certainly do in fact have very real problems, and of late we don’t appear to be inclined to work together to solve them, but sometimes something quite extraordinary happens and we see the goodness of our better natures in all of its glory. Thus it was with the rescue to the soccer team and coach from Thailand. For many days the entire world seemed to be holding its collective breath and praying in unison for the young men trapped inside a cave in a very dangerous situation. Help came from around the globe, and models of courage and sacrifice kept people from far corners holding their breaths in the hope that all would turn out right. In the end the entire crew was rescued in a daring operation that sadly took the life of one man who perished while helping with the endeavor.
There was no preening here. No requests for glory or paybacks. The faces of the those who worked tirelessly mostly remain anonymous. They had a cause that was gloriously important and nothing else seemed to matter. People worked together to solve a grave problem and succeeded just as mankind always has whenever people have been willing to set aside differences for a common good. When the entire group was finally safe we all heaved a collective sigh of relief and shed tears of genuine joy. We realized in that moment how incredible we humans are when we use our potential for something good. The rescue represented the best of who we are as people, and it felt so wonderful to experience such pure elation without the recriminations or critiques that split us apart more often than we desire.
I just wish that we would think of all that is happening to us on any given day and emphasize the truly good things that take place, relegating the bad and the ugly to the back pages where they belong. We give far too much attention to evil and violence, and not nearly enough to our grand accomplishments. We need not ignore problems, but we would do well to put them into perspective. Most of the time the truly ugly stories are judged to be so because they are indeed the exception rather than the rule. The bad ones generally mean that we need to put our heads together to find solutions. The good ones show us just how much capacity we have to create a better world for everyone.
I remain a cockeyed optimist because I truly believe that when all is said and done we time and again grow weary of the bad and the ugly and decide that it’s time to do what we know to be right. It’s just too bad that we don’t hear a bit more about such instances because every single day there are wondrous and heroic actions taking place. Even now someone is saving the life of another human being. Somewhere a great new discovery is taking place. Children are learning the foundations of a just society in many corners of our world. Some person is quietly helping another. Such unsung acts of goodness are the true nature of the world. Sometimes we actually get to know about them and it feels fabulous.