What I want to believe is that people are good, that when push comes to shove, even strangers have your back. Because, really, they do. How many times has each of us been helped by someone else?
“Have a seat.” “What can I get you?” A hug. A ride. A cup of coffee. A kind word.
Earlier this year, for nine consecutive days, good people made headlines. Twelve boys trapped in a cave in Thailand brought out the best in human beings all over the world. The trapped boys were not just Thai boys. They were our boys. And people of all faiths and nationalities prayed for them and pitched in to help.
And the boys were saved.
People pitch in all the time. They rush into burning buildings. They dive into churning water. They get out of their cars on busy highways, perform CPR, risk their own lives doing whatever they can when someone, anyone, is in trouble. And they help in smaller, quieter ways, too.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Bella Rutko, a 9-year-old girl with Rett Syndrome in need of a service dog. I wrote about how a dog could alert her parents when she was having a seizure and how a dog would be a comfort for Bella. A dog trained specifically for Bella had a price tag of $25,000 and though both parents work full time, a $25,000 dog was out of their reach.
Strangers read about Bella and donated more than enough for this child to get her dog.
“In this world where so many try to make us think we are divided and different and that hatred outshines love, well over 100 people we do not know, stopped what they were doing and gave to help a child and a family they have never met,” Bella’s mother, Holly, wrote. “PEOPLE are GOOD. We must never lose sight of this fact. We must never give up HOPE that good always overpowers evil. We must continue to love one another for when it is stripped down, the fact is that we are nothing without each other. We are nothing without love, compassion, and kindness.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, captain of US Airways Flight 1549, made an emergency landing on New York’s Hudson River. It was dramatic and memorable because every one of the 155 people on that flight survived. Sullenberger wrote an essay for The Washington Post last week urging people to do what his passengers did on that frigid January day: Get along. Work together.
“I witnessed the best in people who rose to the occasion. Passengers and crew worked together to help evacuate an elderly passenger and a mother with a 9-month-old child. New York Waterway took the initiative to radio their vessels to head toward us when they saw us approaching. This successful landing, in short, was the result of good judgment, experience, skill — and the efforts of many.”
I want to believe that the efforts of many good people, working together, caring about each other, will be our salvation. I want to believe that good people are this country’s internal guidance system and will right this shaky, turbulent democracy and get us back on course.
Canton’s Nancy Cahillane Connor gave one of her kidneys to a woman she’d met only twice because she needed a kidney to live. She checked into a hospital, checked out. Went on with her life. Terry and Jim Orcutt could have had years of easy living after they retired but instead they started a ministry in Easton that has changed the lives of thousands. Julia Hunter, also from Canton, put a baby monitor in her house so she that she could hear when her elderly neighbor next door needed help.
I need to recount the good that people do to remind myself of the inherent goodness, and the potential for goodness in all of us.
But then there’s the news. The hate. The acrimony. The threats. The killings.
“In every situation, but especially challenging ones, a leader sets the tone and must create an environment in which all can do their best,” Sullenberger wrote, explaining the reason he stayed calm as his plane lost power. “You get what you project. Whether it is calm and confidence — or fear, anger, and hatred — people will respond in kind.”
People are responding in kind. There’s hate. And acrimony. And threats. And killings. So, although I want to believe that people are intrinsically good and that when push comes to shove, even strangers have your back, right now, at this moment, I’m not so sure.Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.