It’s no surprise to anybody that the world seems to be getting worse. In fact, it seems so bad that many of us (including me on a bad day) think this era might be coming to an end. For some of us, that means the fall of the American Empire. For others, natural catastrophes and for some of us, that means Jesus returns. Those of us that take the biblical book of “The Revelation to John” seriously think it means both those things — plus gross, disgusting wars, with mayhem and chaos beyond imagination. I like the “Jesus returns” part, but I have a real problem with the whole “death, mayhem, chaos, and blood” part which takes the whole “joy” part out for me.
Still, there’s a part of me that hopes it’s not as bad as all that — that it’s simply a matter of perception — it seems bad because we only see the bad news on TV or in the newspapers or it’s because we have mass media at all. In former times, we didn’t know if there was a war in East Timbuktu or a genocide in the mountains near the Amazon. Now we have mass media, especially CNN, so it seems worse.
I work in a world where evil and its subsequent pain is rampant. There’s an efficiency to evil — one can destroy a life in events which take next-to-no-time. A drunk driver runs over a pedestrian in a second, sexual abuse and rape — which mess up people’s lives in so many ways — takes as long as the act itself. An angry word stings for more time than it took to say. An angry sentence can take a lifetime to undo. Violence can leave people scarred for life.
Good doesn’t seem to have the efficiency behind it. It’s slower and usually far less sensational. It takes longer to heal. It’s quiet and strong and powerful in it’s own way. OK, that’s not always true… Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Libya, …Wisconsin? Has anybody noticed that democracy is coming through and toppling governments much faster and much cheaper than our weapons brought it to Iraq? Still, this is an extreme period and no one knows how long it will last or how many lives will be better because of it.
Anyway, it seems like it takes a lot more work to make the world decent than it does to destroy it. And it seems like it takes fewer events to mess it up. Confirmation of this in the psychology world comes from a man named John Gottman who says it takes five positive strokes for every one negative stroke to keep a marriage alive.
Luckily, I think that more good, small events happen by far than mean or evil ones. Unluckily, the seriously bad ones ones make the news. We cover the one traffic accident, whereas ten million people drove well enough to not have one. Still, people are polite all the time under all kinds of situations. That’s a good thing. Then sometimes, it rises to the level of intentional goodness — people helping out the old person walking across the street, people saving others from burning buildings, pastors or congregants holding someone’s hand in the hospital or feeding the homeless or whatever. Do we — especially those of us who work with trauma or tragedy — know about these small events enough to make a difference? How would we? Do senior citizens stuck in their apartment worrying about the alleged crime in the streets hear about all the nice people below? How would they?
Well, it turns out that it’s possible now. The pastor of South Church, George Harris has begun talking about a thing called “salt and light” on the internet. It can be found at http://saltandlight.crowdmap.com/. A fuller description of it can be found at George’s own blog: www.pastorgharris.wordpress.com As I understand it, if you go to the salt and light website, you can leave a mark on a map of where a good event happened — from a small, subtle one to a big political one. Hopefully, there’s a “billion” of them near every church in America. And of course, hopefully there’s a billion more out in the rest of the world.
Maybe it’s not the end of the world. Maybe it’s not even a bad day. Maybe it just looks that way from where your sitting — or standing, rushing, falling, sleeping, etc. But if it seems otherwise, and you need encouragement or a reminder of how good people can be, you can look at this website and get a different perspective.
In any case,