"You are what you do, not what you say you'll do." - Carl Jung
The regular drudge of the daily news somehow seems to be worse than it was before. The current political campaigns seem to have sunk to a level never experienced before. The number of bombings, attacks and battles seem to be worse than anything humanity has perpetuated before.
Of course, none of this is true. Newspaper publishers, media magnates and online news purveyors have always led with the “worst news” first. Top of the page and blaring headlines. Why? Because “bad news sells”. People tune in to hear about disasters, not decency.
American political history is full of rogues and egomaniacs. While the current candidates trade barbs, they’re amateurs when compared to the Founding Fathers. The literate – and personal – insults between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson during the election of 1800 would have today’s commentators questioning the candidates’ competency to hold any office.
Terrorist attacks killed approximately 28,000 people last year. A truly horrific number. In 1917, there were one million casualties in the Battle of the Somme. Another million people were killed in the Korean War. There were at least 500,000 deaths during the Vietnam War, including 58,315 Americans.
It’s been worse. Much worse.
Yet, that probably doesn’t make anyone feel better about today. Especially when your news and social media feeds are filled with more reminders of what’s wrong. Friends and strangers alike complaining that all is lost, and that we’re helpless in the face of so much calamity.
This weekend, hidden in a story of a millionaire philanthropist, was the story of Dr. Jim O’Connell. For more than 30 years, Dr. O’Connell has dedicated his life to helping the homeless of Boston. Clinics, programs and personally taking a van out on the streets at night; providing food and clothing to people sleeping in alleys and gutters. Dr. O’Connell knows that he won’t – that he can’t – solve the homelessness problem. But he can get them clean socks.
A group of people on Facebook, separated by thousands of miles, but connected by a love of marathons. A member loses her mother, and another faces emergency surgery. People who’ve never met in person, come together to raise money and send flowers. Expressing love and support for someone in need.
A local veteran passes away. His fellow members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars gather at the visitation. In formation in front of the casket, there’s a reading from the Manual of Ceremonies. Taps is played while the veterans render a salute. On behalf of a grateful nation, the American Flag is presented to his widow. His family, and the community, is reassured that this veteran’s faithful service has not been forgotten.
A pair of clean socks. A basket of flowers. A hand salute.
Seemingly small deeds in the grand scheme of the world. Acts that don’t require much money or power. Something that anyone of us could do on any given day. Certainly these actions don’t make a difference or change the world.
Except they do.