Updated: Nov 21, 2019
I recently read a post in which someone had reached their breaking point. The author was ranting about technology and its impact on today’s children. I was on board with most of the argument until I got to this line: “The world has NOTHING good to offer.” The implication was that access to everything – the world – via unmonitored technology opens the door to merciless exposure and a world with nothing good left in it.
I was sitting in a doctor’s office with Pop for something like the eighth time in two weeks when I read that post. He was idly reading “Model Railroader” as I sat beside him, stung by such a candid remark. I wasn’t in the mood to comment on the post and wage war or devil’s advocacy so I picked up “People” instead. But, the words stuck with me for the duration of the appointment.
On the way home, I asked Pop if he thought the world had nothing good to offer anymore.
“No! That’s ludicrous!” he exclaimed. Pop has metastatic pancreatic cancer. He can be as pessimistic as he wants.
I chewed on the author’s post for the remainder of the day and into the next day. I chewed on Pop’s adamant reaction. More than once I thought about commenting, but refrained. Something about it just got under my skin.
These are not easy times. On the news is leadership arguing, name-calling, and catcalling. Citizens are unheard and underrepresented. Across the globe, wars are raging and disease is spreading like vines. In your life you may feel victimized or so disadvantaged that no matter your effort you can’t keep up. In my life it seems all the people I hold dearest are either struggling to stay alive or struggling to hope. We are a broken world. There is cause to boldly shout, “The world has NOTHING good to offer.”
And yet, there is even more cause not to. Statements like that are fundamental falsehoods, a propaganda conditioned to scare, not inspire.
I have cried more in the last two and a half months than probably since Hurricane Katrina when it seemed all hope was lost for many of us in this region. But like Katrina, Rita, Camille, Betsy, wars, and epidemics, this moment in time—even as it stands some days, perfectly poised on the brink of utter hopelessness—has the capacity to offer more good rather than no good at all. I know because I’ve seen it. You have too.
A couple of Fridays ago I was sitting at a flag football game in City Park, watching my boy play but not really watching. My mind was elsewhere, thinking about cancer and sad things. A mom whom I barely know saw my detachment and rather than ignore me, knelt beside me and took my hand.
“I understand,” she said. “I’ve been there.”
I barely know this woman. She’s only aware of what’s going on with Pop because of something cryptic I said in a group text about why Michael couldn’t be at practice that week. And yet, she reached out. Why? Because the world does have good to offer. There are bigger examples if we just look.
I’ve been criticized for seeing things through rose-colored glasses, but my perception is not so jaded that I don’t realize that not everyone has someone to hold their hand. I recognize how vastly different support can be from one life to the next. But I refuse to not believe in the human spirit and that in the beginning of all of us is nothing but good. That only dissolves when we stop seeing it, when we no longer look inside one another.
I’ve witnessed more goodness since Pop’s diagnosis than ever before, and not just from people in the know. I am referring to genuine human nature. It’s as if I needed to be knocked down to see from below what was always there. People still smile when their eyes meet yours. People still let you turn first in a carpool line. People still reach out when you have been distant. Children still play outside with abandonment. Teachers still establish critical thinkers. Artists still produce masterpieces that make us wonder. Scientists still discover cures for diseases. Not every leader is in it just for reelection. I’m not sure why it takes life and death for beauty to be seen in full splendor. Maybe such things are best seen with an open heart? Perhaps we spend too much of life shut tightly? It’s time to open the valve and get to the goods.
I’m sure the author of the post I read was trying to help, maybe via a warning of the dangers that lurk in the darkness. I even believe the author’s intention to be genuine. Only, the author left out the most important element that would have made the argument sound: The world WILL have NOTHING good to offer IF we give up on one another. I’m not giving up. Neither should you and neither should the author who I hope was just having a very bad day.
I know enough to know that rather than give into the darkness clouding our world, we can be the light that others need in order to see all the good that thrives.
It’s just as easy to see good as it is to see bad. The only difference is which one we choose.
Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.