Monday, November 29, 2010

Little Good Things

Lately it has seemed like all I ever hear about is bad stuff in the world. In everything from how people interact, to general courtesy, to politics, to how people relate to their children, it seems like there isn't a lot of good left in the world at large. To paraphrase one of my favorite Gilmore Girls quotes, when Rory asks Paris if she's met their neighbors at their new apartment, Paris replies, "Yes, and all I can say is build an ark, because we are overdue for a flood."
For the past several weeks and months, I've felt kind of inundated with the worst in humanity--not just with the bad behavior of others, but also the constant need to wallow in and spotlight and pinpoint said bad behavior on the "news", in blogs, pretty much all of Hollywood, etc. I really don't think it helps that there was recently an election, which tends to bring out the worst in both sides of the fence. Something about pregnancy also always seems to hone my negativity radar as well, making me even more observant of the crappier parts of the world around me--possibly because I'm so moody myself. In short, lately, if I'm being honest, I've thought more than once that we might be overdue for a flood.
All these factors coming together has made it the perfect time for me to undertake a project where I've actually made a conscious effort to notice the little acts of kindness happening around me. For nearly the past month I've paid special attention to the little things people do to make the world better for those around them. Of course, it was harder to find these acts than deplorable ones, as you usually do not see someone volunteering to babysit plastering the front page of the checkout line tabloids, but once I started looking at the actual people around me, instead of what the world so desperately tries to make me to notice, I was impressed by what I saw.
I saw people step forward and offer to help in the middle of a family emergency. I saw someone volunteer take an unruly toddler off the mother's hands without being asked because she was clearly in no position to calm her down herself. I saw people who are struggling themselves in this economy give generous donations to a shelter--especially touching at a time when so many requests seem to come in at once and resources are so strapped. I was even a recipient of some of these acts myself, I had people unexpectedly volunteer to babysit when I needed it most. I even found out that yes, there are still people on this planet who will see someone in a line with one item and invite them to go ahead of their full cart at the store.
It may not happen as much as my grandparents claim it did in the good old days, but...
People still hold open doors for the people behind them,
People will still smile back at you and wave if you say hello,
People will pick something up off the ground for you that you've dropped (particularly if you're pregnant and holding a two-year-old FYI),
People still say "thank you very much" and "Have a nice day", and
Drivers will usually stop to let you pass into the parking lot, although I admit I would never fault someone for not wanting to wait for a duckling parade of preschool children to meander across the street--I was surprised to see that one myself.

In short, there is a lot wrong with our world today. Seeing acts of kindness and quiet service does not change the abuse, neglect, dishonesty, greed, and immorality I see and know about in the world around me. However, there are still a lot of really good people out there who are just trying to do the best they can. I wasn't sure I believed it much a month ago, but there are still people who aren't always looking out for #1. Additionally, I realized that much of the good in the world does take place outside my sheltered, "safe" circle of friends and at church. This world may not be perfect, but after spending a month with my eyes open, I no longer think we are due for a flood. And since I'm still pregnant, and there's still political rancor in the world, that's really saying something.

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