People are good. They really are. In spite of the horror that we witness on news channels or hear on the radio or read on the internet, I am going bold. I am choosing to allow myself to believe that ultimately people are good.
Pollyanna? Not really. The idea that we live in a world with nothing but hurtful, selfish, attention-seeking criminals, is too much for me, and I am betting, too much for you, too. Who wants to live in a world where there is no love or trust or goodness?
After watching the news coverage of the Las Vegas massacre, or the collapse of the Twin Towers, or rampant school shootings, I could easily allow myself to change my tune on this. Madmen are everywhere, I could think. Let’s cancel every concert, football game, and summer fair. Let’s hide inside, where we all are safe from harm.
But that’s not the world I want. I want to teach my kids to fight for more. I want my friends to find ways to focus on the good. I want my colleagues to create beautiful works that can brighten some dark place. And I am not alone. Most of us believe that the goodness in the world far outweighs the bad. This is not to minimalize the severity of what we see in the news, it is unbelievable, unacceptable and despicable. But, in this world, we have to keep a true perspective that people wish for better. That they wish for goodness.
"I don't know who this man was but I do believe that God sends all kinds of people to our lives who have the ability to share something as simple as a smile."
Let’s give ourselves permission to still see the good in others. Let’s focus on the simple acts that change our day or perspective. Let’s notice the gentleman holding the door while we struggle with our groceries. Or the bus driver who waits a few extra minutes for the mom who is running late to meet her kindergartener. Or the stranger who pulls onto the side of the road to help change a tire. Or the teenager who steps in to stop a bully. Or someone who offers a tiny gesture of encouragement.
A friend recently shared a story with me about a stranger who offered encouragement that changed everything. She said:
It was my first day back to work after a 12-week maternity leave. I was headed to drop off our baby girl for her first day of daycare. I was a wreck. My emotions were all over the place and I was questioning both our decision for me to return to work as well as the daycare we had chosen back when I found out I was pregnant.
It was early morning on a Monday in January, 2000. I remember it vividly. I was at a two-lane stoplight waiting for the light to turn red when a truck pulled up beside me on the passenger side of my car. The tears were running down my face and I remember praying that this would all be okay. As the truck stopped I glanced through the passenger side of the window and a kind man locked eyes with me and gave me a smile that still resonates in my memory. I don't know who this man was but I do believe that God sends all kinds of people to our lives who have the ability to share something as simple as a smile. Of course, I was still emotional and heartbroken to leave my baby, but I knew God would be with her just as He was with me.
By changing our perspective we have the power to change everything. I am allowing myself, and invite you to join me, as I search for ways to concentrate on the good. It won’t be easy–we are programmed to zero in on the negativity. It’s going to take work and discipline to walk away from conversations that bring us down. It’s going to require a new mindset.
I am up for it. Who is with me?
AnnaMarie McHargue is the author of "People Are Good: 100 True Stories to Restore Your Faith in Humanity." She has been an editor for 32 years and lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and three children.