I helped a woman cross the street Wednesday morning.
I’m pretty sure that didn’t ever happen to anyone in real life. That was always the stereotypical thing that boy scouts did, it got them a merit badge right? Well, anyways, whatever small measure of satisfaction I received from that act melted away as soon as I went into my office and turned on my computer. News of another senseless shooting was up on the front page and just more and more about it. For some reason, I just sat and felt defeated.
Every day when I get to work, I pull up five news sites and read. I don’t use a news aggregator because well, I like having a ritual. The news is almost never good, but it’s something that I need, because I have a compulsive need to understand. Most days I can take the emotion out of it, but something about Wednesday just kicked my ass. There are worse things out there than a shooting, there are worse tragedies out there, more things to worry about, but it was just empty inside of me.
And I can give you a list of statistics about how the world isn’t as bad as you think it is. How within the last 50 years we’ve beaten back the scourge of communicable diseases with science, that right now we have the fewest deaths ever due to violent conflict in recorded history, but none of that makes seeing and hearing about these things any easier. You can blame the media for covering negativity, or simply getting ratings, but that’s their purpose. Their purpose is to shed light on things that you don’t know about, for better or worse.
I see people just say that it’s a crazy world, and then they throw their hands up, exasperated. I never understood that. I never understood people that gave up this easily. When I was younger, I used to think of all the grand ways that I could gloriously campaign to make our world a better place, and I still do, but as I’m getting older, I realize that it’s not enough. 99.9%, those grand campaigns end in our imaginations, and that was the extent of my involvement. Beating back the darkness doesn’t require being harder, harsher, or more cruel to those who would mean you harm. You need to do good.
I’m no saint, and I can be as selfish as anyone. I walk by dozens of homeless people a day and I barely feel a ounce of pity. I also volunteer crazy hours to coach kids because I believe in everything that they are and they can be. I think we’re all dichotomies. There’s no mystical balance that tells you if you’ve done enough good deeds to outweigh the bad, and if that makes you a good person. At the end of the day, you must hold yourself to a standard, a higher standard.
Wednesday afternoon, on the way back home, there was a crying toddler on the train sitting next to me. Instead of staring daggers at the mother and turning my music up, I took out my headphones and start making ridiculous faces at the kid until she stopped crying to look at the doofus puffing out his cheeks. I even earned a smile.
Maybe it’s a crazy sick world out there, but on Wednesday, I helped an old lady cross the street, and I made a little kid smile.
And tomorrow we try to be better all over again. That’s all there is to it.