I’ve been thinking lately about the state of the world. I stopped watching the news years ago because it made me upset, depressed and afraid. I took a journalism class in college, and we did in fact learn that one of the first rules of journalism is this: “If it bleeds, it leads.” News channels, and now the internet, is full of scare tactics. Click bait. They need you to click, to watch, to read. They need the ratings. But the truth is, the world is an incredible place, full of incredible people.
If you look for it, you can find many websites dedicated to good news stories. Stories of heroism, love, strength, and good deeds. You can also read the statistics. While it may seem as though our world is getting worse over time, it’s actually just the opposite. We hear more about awful people doing horrible things – not because it’s happening more often, but because technology has given us the ability to know about everything that happens everywhere.
In fact, mankind has actually improved over time. Studies have shown that empathy in people has actually increased over time, not lessened. And the incidences of people rising up to help others is prominent. I did a quick bit of research to give you some examples. When you look at my state, Ohio, for example, you can see that in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, there seemed to be an increase or constant of rape, violent crime, robbery and manslaughter. But then the numbers stop increasing, begin decreasing, and continue to lower over time. This is even despite the fact that the population continues to grow. Now, these numbers aren’t as low as they were in the 1960’s, when the earliest data is available – however, they are declining over time (the report is able to go only to 2014, so more recent data is unavailable.) If you want to see how things have changed in your area, the website is https://www.ucrdatatool.gov.
Regardless of all of this, though, I urge you to put it to the test, as I do every day. Leave your house. And see how people act on average. Do they wave you on first when you’ve both stopped at stop signs at the same time? Do they let you over in traffic? Do they hold the door for you? Do they smile at you? Do they offer to help when they see a need?
The other day I decided to venture out – alone – with all 3 of my youngest children. Something I’d never done before. My husband and my oldest son had gone to do some father-son adventuring. My kids are 4, 2 and 7 months. The older 2 are boys in the throes of the terrible 2’s and the curious 4’s, so I was on high alert. The first store we went into has carts that have cars in the front for kids to ride in. My hope was that if I put the boys in it they’d be content long enough for me to grab what we needed and get out. But they were out of the carts. As I realized this after we walked in, I said to the kids, “Oh, it looks like they don’t have any car carts today, guys.” An employee overheard me and said, “You want a car cart? I’ll get you one!” and ran out to the parking lot and brought us one. Later, towards the end of our visit, the kids were starting to come unglued, they were climbing in and out of the cart, and I was probably obviously struggling. A woman saw me and said, “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! Someday they will be big and you’ll miss these moments when they were little. Even the ones that make you crazy. You’re doing a good job.” A complete stranger. She stopped and said that to me, just to help. Later, as I was loading everything into the car, she was exiting the store and walked past me, headed to her car. She said, “Hey! See? You did it! I’m proud of you!” And even though I didn’t know her at all, it completely made my day and reinforced my belief in myself and my ability to get through that shopping trip. That day, as we went to other stores, people stopped to tell me how beautiful my children were. They held doors for us. They picked things up when we dropped them. They smiled knowingly when my children acted up. Once Bennett escaped and ran from me, and a gentleman caught him and steered him back in my direction.
This is the world I choose to see. This is the world I want my kids to grow up in. This is the world I will foster and grow by holding doors for strangers. By complimenting them. By allowing them to go ahead of me in line. By practicing politeness and kindness and community. It truly takes a village to raise our children. And while this doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad people, or good people who do bad things, it does mean that we shouldn’t focus on it. There is exponentially more good in the world than there is bad. And I truly believe that if that is where our focus lies, we can continue to steer things in that direction. Less fighting, more understanding. Less hate, more love. Less weakness, more strength. And when you see someone struggling – do something.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi