When I was on Facebook, one of my favourite things to do was to post news of good things happening in the world. For many folks, the Facebook feed can be something of an echo chamber. An upsetting news story breaks, then it gets shared, then it gets reacted to and the reactions are shared. It can be a barrage of awful news after just a few minutes of scrolling.
At a minimum, after enduring a salvo of bad news we feel bad. But more often than not, it also can result in our making judgments: If all I’ve seen for the past 15 minutes of scrolling is intolerance, war, prejudice, and misogyny then clearly this must be the world we live in. And to be fair: it is.
But it’s also not that simple. There are also people doing amazing things. Great things are happening every day that get lost among the bad news. As much as the world is a place filled with bullying, starvation and hatred, it is also one where people are doing beautiful, selfless and healing things.
Some may think that avoiding news entirely is the answer. And if one is in the depths of despairing for the planet, it’s probably not a bad short term idea. I think, though, that a realistic alternative is to balance one’s consumption:
By all means stay informed but stay especially informed about things you can take action on. Then take that action: call your elected representatives, go to that protest, volunteer at the food bank or tutor your neighbour. Commute by transit, bike or carpool once a week (or more!)
The often missed other side of the coin is this: Take in stories of success. If all you read are stories of despair it is easy to get the idea that nothing we can do will help. And if we believe that, then many of us, sadly, decide that it’s pointless to act.
And that’s where this weekly post comes in. I want you to see good things happening in the world. I want you to see folks trying to make things better and succeeding. I want you to see that for every greedy politician there are generous people doing good in the world. And then, if you let me dream for just a moment, I want to see you go out and join them in action.
And so without further ado, here are this week’s links:
10,000 trees get planted in China over the course of 13 years: Sometimes we may have a big idea but we can’t do it alone. That was definitely the case for these men. One was blind and the other has no arms but between them they made it work and made a huge difference. What I especially like about this is the other hidden message here. 10,000 trees sounds like a lot – and it is. But the effort breaks down to an average of two trees a day. When we think about big change we often get overwhelmed at the mountain we think we have to move . But we can break it down into pieces – and share those pieces.
Seva for Everybody making a big difference in the Detroit Area: After my first Hindi class with my then 92 year old teacher (he’ll be 95 this year) he asked for a bit of help making his bed, changing in to his pajamas and reheating his dinner. When I was done I learned one of my first few Hindi words: Seva (सेवा) and it means simply “Selfless Service”. Simply: Doing good things for others because it is good to do things for others. (And it makes us feel good). I like this story for a couple of reasons. The first is that the men in it are doing just that – playing ball with special needs children, they mentor foster kids, and feed the homeless. This last is part of Langar, part of the Sikh religion embodying the belief in human equality regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status.
Tiny Homes Help Low Income Workers Become Homeowners: This story is the intersection of many things I love. Tiny homes (most of you already know of the 2 years we spent living in a yurt in the woods), and people just diving in doing what needs to be done. I also have long had a fascination for what people are doing in this realm in Detroit. For all the bad that is happening there, there seems to be a great deal of innovation as well in terms of lower impact future living. I still hope to visit there and see that one day.
One man in Pittsburgh proves that kindness fuels humanity: Yes, yes, I know, several of you have said I should watch The Kindness Diaries on Netflix. And I have really meant to but I haven’t yet. This article makes me really want to see it now. This guy is trading random acts of kindness for food, shelter and company as he meet strangers on the road as he travels by motorcycle. I’ve been toying with an idea like this for years having read similar stories before but have been both a little scared to try and also there’s the issue of “recreational poverty”. I’ll be curious to see how he addresses that in the show.
‘You destroy, we rebuild’: a builder’s life in war-torn Syria: I started off this entry talking about action as a strong means of avoiding despair in today’s world. But these folks take it to another level. For them action isn’t just about avoiding feeling a particular way, it’s about making sure the people they share a city with have shelter when others destroy it – often repeatedly. Taking action, in their case is a matter of holding on to the things that matter to them.
And though most of you reading this aren’t facing such dire challenges, I encourage you to do the same. Face the things that upset you and do what you can. See if you can get a friend or two to join you. Replacing one brick or planting one tree may not seem like much, but over time and with shared effort it can make all the difference in the world.