“... You’re going to find, yes you will, that you’re beautiful as you feel.”
— Carol King
Certainly those of us who have a tendency to focus on the negative that life sends our way — or at least on those kinds of stories that are reported on the regular by the “can we scare the bejeezus out of our viewers/readers” doomsday media — agree with those famous words of American patriot Thomas Paine that these, indeed, are the “times that try men’s (and women’s) souls.”
Because we have access to, essentially, the world on a 24/7 basis, it’s hard to find contentment when there’s always something waiting to rain our parade. From the killer virus in China to the despicable partisan politics of our own country to the ongoing ravages of climate change to the almost unchecked violence that threatens our citizens to growing global tension that is the result of differing religious factions, there’s plenty to worry about.
And since I am not enough of a Pollyanna to always “accentuate the positive” — hell, like the Stone’s sang, I’ve had more than my share of “moments of doubt and pain” — I can’t really fault anyone for walking around with a dark cloud over their head, always on the lookout for the next bit of bad news.
But one thing I’ve noticed of late as I’ve actively sought to adjust my outlook more toward Monty Python’s “the bright side of life” is that you really don’t have to look that hard for good things to celebrate either.
Sometimes, serrendipitously, light unexpectedly filters into your dark side. And you’re reminded once again that, even with its seeming endless calamity, this world is a pretty amazing place filled with even more amazing people.
I wrote a couple of columns back about how my colleague Bill Strickland, in trying to do a good deed for someone less fortunate, had been taken for $20 by a man whose demons would not allow him to, as Spike Lee said, “do the right thing” when presented with an opportunity. Instead, the man destroyed the simple trust of a fellow being who had chosen to believe in the inherent goodness of others, despite evidence otherwise.
Well, a beautiful, kind-hearted lady read that column, and when she saw me a few days later, she stopped me and handed me some money. “Since I read that column, your co-worker has been on my mind and my heart,” the lady said. “I want you to give this to him to thank him for his kindness, let him know that there are people willing to offer the same kindness to him.”
Bill, taken way aback by the gesture, at first refused to accept the money. Told that it was a response to his good deed, he said, “Well, you can thank this person and assure them that I will pay their kindness forward.”
Yes, selfless acts like that remind us of our own callousness, but they also serve notice that, despite the overwhelming abundance of Don Henley’s “dirty laundry” that makes up what is called “news reporting” these days, there is a whole lot of good in this world.
It’s there when you run across these random acts of kindness. It’s there when you see volunteers in the community reaching out to help others, even if many of those others are not deserving of such help. (I’m reminded of a statement by some of the good people at the Albany Rescue Mission when it was pointed out to them that a couple of women had driven up in a late-model luxury car, got in line and got their free meals, then drove off without so much as a thank you: “We help the needy and the greedy.”)
You see the good in the smile of an interesting new person who adds a layer of enrichment and possibility to your life, or in the phone call from an old friend you haven’t heard from in ages.
We all, as the Allman Brothers told us, have our “crosses to bear.” But there’s enough good around us to help us carry them up Golgotha.
Yeah, I know, I know, this Sister Mary Sunshine stuff is so unlike me. But I’m about to take a week off ... that’s the kind of thing that makes a boy all giddy. I’ll check back on the gloom and doom in a few days. Right now, I’m walking on sunshine.