This morning, I set out for my daily walk in the park. It's just 2 miles, but at 6 months pregnant, even a few blocks often requires a bathroom stop along the way.
Fortunately, there is a porta pottie by the tennis courts at my halfway mark. Yet by the time I'd gotten to the health food store just a couple blocks from home, I was desperate to go again.
While against their policy, the man stocking the granola aisle smiled kindly as he led me through to the back, which certainly made it easier to get a little shopping done. That is, until I reached the counter and realized I didn't have enough cash on me (I'd forgotten to throw a credit card in my pocket).
Slightly flustered, I offered to put back the bananas or tomatoes in order to bring my balance down. But Nima– a man I'd never met before– gently touched my hand, looked in my eyes, and said, "I want you to have your bananas and tomatoes. Just bring the balance by sometime."
This kind of kindness isn't an anomaly. When I recently took my air filter to our local hardware store for repair, Mohammad, unable to determine the problem, insisted on bringing the machine home 'to explore and play with it'. Three days later, he returned my indeed broken filter– free of charge– with thanks for my providing him with 'a new challenge'.
So often when I tell people I am from New York, I hear back "you don’t seem like it…" I know this is meant to be a compliment; New Yorkers have a reputation of being cold, harsh, and jaded. Certainly this is true of some people, as it is for certain inhabitants of any city or town.
But these stereotypes miss the point entirely. They highlight a few bad apples and extrapolate them out to the population at large, leaving a very incorrect impression of the way the majority of people really are… good, decent, and kind.
The same is true, unfortunately, of the current news media. We are not provided with a balanced summarization of all that is going on in the world; we hear a singularly one-sided view of what’s decidedly wrong with it. And not only once at 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening… but all day long, over and over and over again.
I'm not suggesting that we should 'positive up' the news or put our heads in the sand and ignore the realities and challenges in society. In order to make our world a better place, we certainly must look candidly and critically at what isn't working in order to determine and implement what will.
Yet when 'bad news' is all that we are shown on the news and internet, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it not only depletes our optimism and hope; it influences our perspective to the point where we can no longer see– or worse, want to see– what is truly possible in terms of righting the wrongs in our world.
Beginning with how many good people there are in it, and the incredible kindnesses they contribute on both the local and global levels.