I, like most Americans, am having a really hard time processing what happened in Sandy Hook, CT on Friday morning. I am having trouble understanding what would allow someone to do such terrible, awful things to hurt so very many people. I can't seem to comprehend why these events keep happening over and over and over again. This world we live in, or at least this country that we live in, seems terrifying these days. We can't fly without at least a thought in the back of our minds that a terrorist might somehow take down the plane. We can't seem to get through a year now without some freakish weather event, be it an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, blizzard, or all four. Now we can't go to a movie theater, mall, or even an elementary school without looking over our shoulders and worrying that a crazed man or even more shocking--woman--that we have never met might decide to take our lives into his or her hands.
I have always been someone who believed in good triumphing over evil, but sometimes it seems like evil has a head start. It only takes one terrible human being to steal a gun and shoot up a school, but millions of people can give money to a charity and it still might not be able to fix a child's cancer, or heal the mental or physical wounds of a veteran, or help a child who grew up in poverty to get an education and a job. I know there are so many more good people out there than bad, but it seems so much harder for the good to make a splash.
Sure, there is a wonderful post going around on Facebook right now about "26 Acts That Restored Our Faith in Humanity This Year," and for a second it gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling inside, but it is not enough. I want to believe that everyday a police officer puts shoes on a homeless man. Why is that so uncommon that he gets a Today Show appearance? Why are there not millions of people going up and offering pieces of clothing to homeless people each day? I thought it was adorable that there was a security guard at Disney who went around getting autographs from all of the little girls dressed as princesses, but why should it be so unusual that children feel important? Shouldn't every child in the world have someone hug them each day and tell them they are special and they are loved? There were photos of people rescuing pets during storms. Why aren't we all adopting pets, providing foster homes, or volunteering at organizations like Monsters Milers or the SPCA?
I believe that all of the good people are just waiting for opportunities. Waiting for the "right" way to help. Scared of putting themselves in a bad position. Frustrated that even though they might donate their time or money, the letters from charities still roll in and nothing seems to be getting better. I believe that many times life just gets too busy, too hard, or too exhausting to think about going out of our way to do good.
Well after Friday, I am convinced. It is no longer enough to wait for opportunities to do good. It is no longer acceptable to wait until someone asks you for help. We need to seek out opportunities to be good people. We need to work harder at being a force for good in the world. There is a quote on Pinterest that I love, and it reads, "Be the kind of person that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, 'Damn, she's up.'"
We need to be actively looking for ways to help, beyond donating money to a couple of good causes or anytime that an old British rock band decides to put on a telethon. Invite someone over for dinner, and not just the smooth bachelor with great stories and good wine, but the recovering alcoholic who is still looking for a job. No one has ever died from awkward breaks in conversation. Offer to babysit for the new mom and pay for her to get a pedicure. Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in Wawa. Hold the door for the man with the stroller. Actually look at the cashier and ask how his day is going, instead of just acting like he doesn't exist. Let people merge on the highway. Stop acting like you're in such a damn hurry. Look people in the eye and smile at them. Talk to your family members. If you know people with mental illnesses, insist that they get help instead of just believing that they are someone else's problem. Go through your drawers and realize that even though you love them all, you don't actually need 50 t-shirts and can afford to give some to Goodwill. Compliment a stranger. Put some grocery store gift cards in a neighbors mailbox who you know is struggling. Keep it anonymous.
You might think you don't know anyone who is struggling, but if you pay attention and open your eyes, you'll see opportunities to help. You'll see ways to do good.
Will it keep people from doing evil? No, probably not. But hopefully it will make it so giving a homeless person clothes is no big deal, that rescuing animals in need is a given, and that the acts that restore our faith in humanity are so high in number that we will never be able to track them in a list anymore. I will do my best to do the same.