Do you ever wonder how many incredibly wonderful humans there have been whose names you will never know? Surely there was a tenor somewhere who rivaled Luciano Pavarotti but never gained fame for his talent. There may have been an amateur artist who created works worthy of an art museum whose name we will never hear. History and even the present is filled with outstanding individuals who quietly did remarkable things without receiving credit or notoriety,
I recently told my grandchildren that the key to a happy life is found in doing what is right not for glory or recognition but simply because it is the moral thing to do. So often in these times of instant fame via smart phones that capture the good, the bad and the ugly of humans some ordinary soul becomes momentarily famous for acts of kindness. We might find ourselves suddenly feeling a bit irked because we know of someone who is quietly doing the same sort of things without anyone ever realizing the extent of their good works. We wonder how some get rewarded and others are not even noticed. We forget that the true value of giving is not found in adulation or even gratitude but in the feeling that comes from forgetting about oneself and focusing entirely on the needs of others.
There is a group of delightful little girls in my neighborhood who are always selling things. One day they may have a corner lemonade stand, another they may walk door to door offering their homemade works of art for sale. They are always enthusiastic and overjoyed whenever anyone makes a purchase but what most people do not know is that every single dime that they earn they later donate to the Make a Wish Foundation. They thought of doing this on their own and they hawk their hot chocolate and their mini garage sales with great enthusiasm all the while not mentioning their own generous hearts. I only found out their secret when one of their mothers told me the truth of why they had become the neighborhood vendors lest I grow weary of being tapped to contributed financially to their latest venture.
These young ladies will never make the nightly news or get a phone call from a celebrity to thank them for their efforts and they don’t seem to mind that at all. It is the joy of giving that brings the iridescent smiles to their faces. The sounds of their grateful laughter each time someone contributes to their cause fills the neighborhood with a lovely kind of hope and joy that is its own reward.
I see men and women faithfully toiling away at food pantries or routinely giving blood. Every neighborhood has that person who sees someone struggling and rushes over to help. Random and unsung acts of kindness happen all of the time. The world can sometimes feel cold and uncaring and then we see or even become the recipient of a sweet gesture that renews our own faith in the people around us.
I had a cousin Jack who loved to laugh and joke whenever we gathered as a family. We all knew that he worked for the United States Postal Service and that he had three lovely daughters. We always enjoyed seeing him because of his wry sense of humor and ability to make us feel happy but we really had little idea of the depth of his goodness until he had died. It was only then that one person after another stepped forward to recount the amazing things that he had done for people. One by one, day after day he took the time to quietly spread cheer to those in need. He visited his aging mother on a regular basis, spending hours playing dominoes with her and her twin sister. He played Santa Claus at his church every Christmas. He managed food drives and sat with friends and acquaintances who were sick or suffering. The goodness of his heart spilled out in testimonial after testimonial about the sacrifices he had quietly made for others time and time again.
It’s easy to become disenchanted in times like the ones in which we presently find ourselves. It seems as though hate has crawled out of its dark hole. As people whine and complain about masks, immigrants, young people, old people, the poor, the rich it feels as though we have become a nation of selfish souls lacking in compassion and respect for one another. It is easy to become cynical and to feel a bit hopeless but I would stake all that I hold dear on the truth that there is so much good that we do not see. It is silently happening all around us in a million different ways. It’s the group of neighbors who spend a day on the phone and the Internet attempting to find an appointment for a vaccine for the older woman who lives on their street who has become frustrated and confused by the process. It is the friend who out of the blue sends a cheerful note to someone who is experiencing tragedy. It is the person who lives thousands of miles away who senses that someone needs a phone call to keep from falling apart. It is the teacher who takes the time to just listen to a student in crisis.
The world is filled with people doing good things when no one is watching. Love outnumbers hate a thousand fold. The trolls and the agenda driven power seekers would like us to believe that ours is only a dog eat dog world of winners and losers and suckers. They would make us fearful of one another but they would be wrong. Goodness always always finds a way to triumph in unassuming ways, one kind act at a time.