As I look at today’s world, something is very, very wrong. The level of anger and divisiveness is out of control. You rarely see people with opposing views reason together and have civil discussions to resolve their differences. Diversity of thought is often not welcomed. We don’t hold people accountable for their bad behavior and situations escalate to angry words and senseless violence in the blink of an eye. The rule of law is routinely being ignored and traditional values and our core institutions are constantly being attacked. Kindness, courtesy, respect and simple decency are becoming more scarce.
But, despite all of these challenges, there is also much that is good in the world.
I was recently reminded of this truth when a friend shared this famous J.R.R. Tolkien quote from The Return of the King which I first read many years ago:
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”
This illustrates to me that the current state of society is not permanent. We can change things for the better and in fact, men and women of goodwill are doing their part every day to make a positive difference. I believe these small acts of love, goodness, kindness, bravery and virtue are ultimately what will help our nation and the world get back on track.
Time for Something Good
If you are reading this post, you may be aware that I write my blogs as part of a themed series from time to time. This post will be the first in a new series called Something Good. As often as I can, I hope to share stories about average people like you and me in the coming weeks that are positive, uplifting and will serve as a counter to the overwhelmingly negative news spewed out by media outlets. Maybe you will be inspired to share positive stories of your own that will remind people in your circle that the “shadow”, as Tolkien wrote, is but a small and passing thing.
Here is the first Something Good story and it is a true tale about modern chivalry.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in mass with my family when I quietly observed an inspiring scene that lasted all of five minutes. Two rows in front of us was a young teenage girl sitting next to her older brother and the rest of her family. The girl sneezed a few times and clearly needed to blow her nose. In the row in front of me and sitting directly behind her was a man I know pretty well who was sitting with his family. He handed the young lady a clean cloth handkerchief he must have kept in his pocket for just such an emergency. She was clearly not sure if she should take it and looked to her older brother for guidance. He swiftly looked at the older man and then nodded to his sister saying it was OK. She used the handkerchief and then the embarrassment of what do with the now dirty cloth hit her and she looked lost and nervous. The brother took it from her, folded it carefully with the dirty part on the inside, and handed it back to the older gentleman while expressing his thanks. She turned around as well and with a warm smile, mouthed a silent thank you. Why is this short scene worthy of mention?
The older gentleman demonstrated courtesy and thoughtfulness to a young lady who will likely never forget his kind act. He acted as a gentleman should and, perhaps, the young lady had likely not seen many examples of this behavior from the boys in her school. The older brother also witnessed from the older man how a true gentleman should behave and probably gleaned as much as his sister from what he observed. The following Sunday, I ran into the girl’s father outside of our church and asked him if his daughter or son had relayed the incident. They had not and I described the exchange for him. He drew the same conclusions as me about lessons learned and was grateful I told him. He also committed to thank the gentleman with the handkerchief who he knew as well.
It is sometimes the little acts of kindness that make a lasting impression. Letting young people witness kindness and generosity in the form of gentlemanly behavior could have a ripple effect both on how that young lady raises expectations for how she wishes to be treated by men in the future and how her older brother engages with the women in his life. Also, it is likely the gentleman with the handkerchief simply derived pleasure at his small opportunity to be of service to a young lady in need. It inspired me to witness that chivalry is clearly not dead and there are some, like the man in the pew two Sundays ago, who are keeping it alive.
After you read this post, consider how you can make a positive difference in the world today. Don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed by all that is going wrong. Just focus on the little things you can do and remember the sage words of Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta): “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”