The Good, The Bad and Making This Place Better

“In this garden
They’ll be no war
No racial prejudice
You’ll be my brother
Of any color
You’ll just be okay with us
We’ll live each day in peace
In hope that we will one day reach
The rest of the world
When they are ready to be teached
The kingdom will come
Thy will will be done
On Earth as it is in heaven
I build this garden
I build this garden for us”

-Lenny Kravitz, I Build This Garden For Us

What is the most important lesson you want to teach your children? To work hard? To live with passion? To trust their instincts? Me too. These are all important lessons that I’m trying to give my kids. But the most important lesson for me, the one I most want my kids to carry with them through this life can be found in a children’s book- “Is There Really A Human Race” by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell.

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In the book a little boy is asking his mom about the “human race” we all participate in and what is it really all about… she answers with this “Shouldn’t it be looking back at the end that you judge your own race by the help that you lend? So, take what’s inside of you and make big, bold choices. And for those who can’t speak for themselves, use bold voices. And make friends and love well, bring art to this place. And make the world better… for the whole human race.”  On the last page there is a drawing of a Muslim and Jewish man sitting together on a park bench playing “Go Fish”. I choke up every time I read it to my kids.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and bogged down with all of the crap happening around us. Just reading the news is enough to put anyone of us in a depression about all of the negativity and evil and hatred in the world. But, there is good out there. There are some really amazing people doing really amazing things. There are people performing small acts of kindness, right now, all over the world. It’s out there, it just doesn’t always make the evening news. After writing my recent posts about racism and online misogyny and bullying I felt like I was in need of some reminders about The Good. I do believe The Good outweighs The Bad. I may write a little more about The Bad because those are the things that get me fired up and pissed off and that’s when I have to write. The Bad will always get more airplay and screen time. And it should, because we have to write about it, read about it, talk about it if we ever want things to change. But sometimes The Good deserves a little lovin’ too. A little publicity can maybe result in a chain reaction, inspire us to do our own Good.

A few months ago I stumbled upon this picture:

credit: Stephanie Lim, Ann Arbor News/ AP
credit: Stephanie Lim, Ann Arbor News/ AP

Pretty powerful picture, right?  The look on this woman’s face, the ferocity with which she is protecting this man, the way the man is cowering and protecting himself…  it’s a picture that says so much. What’s even more powerful is the story behind the picture. The KKK was holding a rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1996. Many people showed up to peacefully protest the presence of the Klan. This man was spotted with an SS tattoo, wearing a Confederate Flag shirt.

keshia-thomas-2

The peaceful protestors broke through the barricades and chased this man down, attacking him. Their anger is not hard to understand. Here is someone who represents everything most of us consider evil and hateful. Keshia Thomas, only 18 years old at the time, threw herself on top of the man to protect him from the crowd. Protesters were beating him with their placard signs and she threw herself into the line of fire to protect someone who by nature of his affiliations hated her because of her skin color. Someone who would likely rather see her enslaved or killed, if the flag shirt and SS tattoo are any indication. She exhibited courage and conviction with her actions. This picture tells a beautiful, unexpected story from a day that was intended to represent hate and ugliness by those holding the rally.

Then there’s this picture:

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Members of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas were protesting at Washburn University in Kansas. Josef Miles was visiting the campus with his mom when he saw the protestor’s signs. He used a notebook and scribbled the message “God Hates No One.”  This boy, only 9 years old, stood up to the hatred these people were spewing and staged his own counter protest.

Facebook/Fever Dreams
Facebook/Fever Dreams

His mom said she’d “Never been prouder” of her son, “Those people are scary but he stood strong, was respectful and stood by his convictions. He will be a good man, I have no doubt. I got my Mothers Day present early.”

Last week I saw a story about a special needs teen, Mitchell Marcus, who was the team manager on his high school basketball team. During the last game of the season his coach put him in the game with 90 seconds left on the clock. The teammates and the coach wanted the avid basketball fan to have his chance to score a basket during a real game. Mitchell took his shot and missed, tried again and the ball went out of bounds. The opposing team, his school’s rival, now had possession of the ball. Then something amazing happened.9bf5dd6d8a43b1523578cac6706a8834

Jonathen Martinez passed the ball to Mitchell and said “Shoot it, it’s your time.” Mitchell again shot and missed. The opposing team stood back and let Mitchell take three more shots until he finally scored. The crowd rushed the court and lifted Mitchell onto their shoulders. The rival team sacrificed their chance to win the game, opting instead to let Mitchell fulfill a dream.

These stories are reassuring. Comfort that in the midst of ugliness, there’s beauty. Comfort that The Good outweighs The Bad. Hope for the optimist in us that we’re not fools for believing in The Good. Because there’s also this:

After Arden McNath collapsed in front of her, Meghan Vogel stopped and helped her to the finish line and made sure she crossed over it first, sacrificing her place in the meet. (AP/The Daily Mail/ Mike Vogel)

And this:

Christians forming a protective circle around praying Muslims during the Egyptian protests

And to return the favor:

Muslims standing outside a Catholic church in Egypt to protect the worshipers
Muslims standing outside a Catholic church in Egypt to protect the worshipers

Let these stories warm your heart. Remember, even when you’re watching the evening news that there are people out there making bold choices. When you hear of senseless violence, remember that there are people who are using bold voices to stand up for others. When you see people displaying bigotry or hatred, remember that there are people who are making friends and loving well and bringing art to this place. Remember all of this and maybe we can all make this world better for the whole human race.

3 Comments

    1. I know, these stories give me hope. I especially feel hopeful when you see young people doing these things. I would rather see my kids do an act like this than win any race or ball game! In fact, I may show this to my older kids and throw it in their face “Why haven’t you done something like this???” (kidding. maybe…)

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  1. I am so glad I ‘stumbled’ onto this post. It was a very hopeful piece of writing. I think you touched on a greater theme also. When a group of people who are not a populace’s majority are treated unjustly, the injustice is rarely overcome by a violent attack on their aggressors. These attacks draw attention to the issue and they may give a bit of personal relief from pain and anger. But real progress is made when others stand up with these people. For instance, in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936. Much of Europe was dealing with extremists on the right and left and Nazism was even getting interest in England. When the British Union of Fascists planned to parade through the East End which had a large Jewish population, the rest of London turned out to tell them they were not welcome. This marked the beginning of the end of the BUF and strengthened the British people’s resolve to defeat Fascism and Hitler.

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