Where I Find the Good

A number of years ago, my father posted the following note on a corkboard in his kitchen: “Life is 98% good and 2% other.” In more recent years, as my mother has fallen deeper into the grips of Alzheimer’s disease, he has modified the note: “Life is 88% good and 12% other.” Life is harder but on balance, it is still good.

We generally think like that as a family. We have an optimistic view of the world despite the difficulties that have come to our door and the deep struggles and tragedies we have seen around the world. A glass half-full? We say, “the glass is full.” A silver lining? We call it looking at “the upside.”

We aren’t naïve. We fully recognize that life regularly delivers hardship, trouble and tragedy. And we know we are privileged to have the tools, resources and support that allow us to see light shining in the darkness.

After a hurricane, a hug warms up the shelter for a young survivor and a Americares responder. Photo by Americares

I am always moved by people who shine that light to help others. That’s why I have been so touched recently learning about the events that took place in Gander, Newfoundland, following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Gander is the small, remote town in Eastern Canada that hosted with great generosity more than 6,500 passengers and crew of 38 jetliners forced to land when U.S. airspace was closed after hijacked planes attacked New York and Washington.

My wife and I recently attended the award-winning Broadway musical “Come From Away” based on the people and events in Gander. I also read the book “The Day the World Came to Town” by Jim Defede that captures so many of the heart-warming stories that took place in Gander and surrounding towns.

If you need to be reminded (and don’t we all in the current climate) that generosity, caring, compassion and selflessness remain at the heart of the human condition, see the play or read the book. I hope that like me, you will feel better about the world and the potential we all have to make it a better place.

Here, a clinic director and her patient share a moment of goodness. Photo by Matthew McDermott.

Despite that truth, it is still too easy to focus on the negative, the broken and the bad. Perhaps we are tempted to do that by the news media. I am not a media basher. In fact, I am a former journalist and believe strongly in the essential function a free press plays in our democracy. But the very definition of news is something new, out of the ordinary, not expected. The sun rising tomorrow morning isn’t news. The sun not rising would definitely be news.

Bad news, negative events, things that are not ordinary — these more easily break into our consciousness and lives. The ordinary — good things — are quieter.

I love this quote from the English author Evelyn Beatrice Hall: “There is always more goodness in the world than there appears to be, because goodness is of its very nature modest and retiring.”

As we mark another 9/11 anniversary, take a quiet moment to notice the good in your day. Remember the kind-hearted people of Gander, who are proof of that goodness.