Editorial - Abounding Goodness
Editorial from the Australian Salesian Bulletin, Autumn 2019 issue
By Fr Frank Freeman, Editor
What a start to the year it has been! We have had our fill of sea disasters, volcanoes, bush fires, going-ons of presidents and dictators, corruption and bribery in high places, scandals amid the pillars of society, massacres in foreign countries and murders of the aged and defenceless in our own. I think I will give up on reading newspapers.
Our newspapers and media, with regular monotony and high selectivity, focus on the negative. Convinced as they are that “good news does not sell newspapers”, they marshal from the daily life of this world all the spectacular, the disastrous, the violent, and dish it all up to us as our daily fare. After all, to make money is the name of their game; they distort a wonderful positive force for good in the pursuit of coins.
I have often wondered what effect such a constant barrage of the negative aspects of life upon regular newspaper readers could have. Do they become hardened and insensitive? Do great disasters earn no more than a shaking of the head and a “Tut! Tut!”? And herein lies the danger. As we become immune to the violent and the negative, our appreciation of the beautiful and the positive becomes dulled alongside it. It was the poet Francis Thompson who warned us of such a danger, “Tis ye, ‘tis your estranged faces that miss the many splendored thing.”
A thoughtful assessment of our daily rounds will highlight many pleasant moments and many positive stories that the newspapers would not deem newsworthy. As it is on the local scene, so it is on the worldwide stage. In the daily life of towns and villages of this world, there is a struggle to raise higher the line between goodness and evil that abounds in ordinary, everyday hearts.
Recently I joined the check-out queue at our small, local supermarket. A lady, wearing the wreath of her years, was fumbling with her purse when the assistant, having packed her bag, said, “Madam. may I have your car keys?”. Those standing in line wondered why he wanted her car keys. The young man then took the lady’s arm, accompanied her out to the car, placed her shopping in the back seat, gave her keys and returned to serve customers amid much appreciation of his kindness. “Should be more of that” said the burley character behind me.
On exiting I noticed a young man sitting begging. His unkempt appearance and haggard looks signalled that in the throw of Life’s dice, he was obviously down on his luck. As I felt for some coins to give him, another gentleman stopped, spoke to him kindly and then said, “I have only one dollar, but here it is. I am bound to find another at home.”
If we could but highlight the abounding goodness that pervades the world around us, we would have the power to eliminate so many of the world’s evils. The great Russian novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, recognised this struggle for universal goodness.
“It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirring of the good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, not between classes, not between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
There are plenty of examples to encourage us: the unpaid army of volunteers assisting in famine relief; the heroic efforts of those involved in the rescue of the trapped boys in a Thai cave; the separation of the conjoined Bhutanese twin girls in July; the unselfish and comforting work of nurses in our hard-pressed hospitals; the dedication and caring service of teachers in our schools; the burdens shouldered by parents for the wellbeing of their children. All this goodness is so much grist to our everyday mills and should be enough food for a meal of encouragement and optimistic hope.
This focusing in on good is not an act of ignoring the evil that exists. It is simply readjusting, so we can maintain a healthy balance that uplifts and encourages rather than one which demeans and demoralizes; an exercise in Christian optimism and hope. The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace.”
It is indeed a very Christian thing to focus on the goodness that abounds all around us, and then to value this goodness as “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”