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Kindness of a few can better society

Tuesday, December 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:47 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

I reminded myself first thing this morning. It’s time to begin accepting the reality that within a few days we will be welcoming a new year. For some of us, a brief but painful glance across the shoulder will reveal in intricate detail all the promises we made to ourselves this time last year, facing us now, unfulfilled. Personally, I’m going to offer a huge sigh, a weary shrug of the shoulders and the profound reminder that, well, that’s life. So, OK, it will give me a foundation to build on for 2005.

One new reality I’m having a hard time adjusting to is that it’s difficult for me to focus on national news. I’ve never been one to embrace denial as a method of facing the future. Perhaps, the majority of Americans feel the need to believe that denying gays the right to marry and overthrowing Roe vs. Wade will restore the nation to the status intended by the founding fathers. Meanwhile, there seems to be a whole boxcar load of troublesome problems which are being ignored.

I’m not saying that a lot of people care about the number of abused and neglected children who make up a large portion of the next several generations. Obviously, many do not. How these children survive day-to-day, of course, is an immediate problem for them and those charged with the responsibility of providing care for them. This, coupled with the fact that more infants to populate this group are being brought into the world every hour, is truly worrisome.

And while we know the uncertain present these kids face, is there someone, somewhere, considering the future that will ultimately confront them? Is any thought being given to a society where the illiterate could outnumber the literate and what that will mean to our families, our institutions, our communities, or in fact, our democracy?

However threatening, some folks might find same-sex relationships and some women’s decisions to end their pregnancies, does this mean that we can abandon those within our nation who are without health care insurance or the ability to purchase life-sustaining medications? Can we get on the same page and realize that no amount of legislation will keep people who care about one another from co-joining and with or without law, women who choose otherwise cannot be forced to bear children? If we merge the Holy Bible with the Constitution, will that provide the necessary sanctions for us to kill anyone who does not agree with us?

What happened to the independent national press that failed to report to us the news we wanted to hear and instead reported what was actually going on in the world? Ah, deregulation, of course. A few guys with a lot of bucks figured it out that those who control the news can determine the outcome for elected officials and legislation. It didn’t take a rocket scientist.

Downsizing, outsourcing and a failed education system are other major problems growing larger even as we speak But I think the greatest threat to our well-being is that so many of us have allowed current events to rob us of a clear vision of the way of life that we want for ourselves and our families and the commitment and dedication to fight for that vision.

The truth be told, our adversaries (those that want a world divided by haves and have-nots) have the necessary money and financial power to hold us in check and our loved ones hostage. What they can never control is our will to create and maintain a true democracy. We live at a time when we do not have great leaders with prophetic voices to energize our efforts. There is no Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. or Mandela to inspire us. We feel that we are left to our own meager devises. But we have the examples of the lives of these men to draw from. We can read about Moses and Jesus and John the Baptist. And from the information we gather we can know that the time is never right to pursue just causes. Great women and great men have always had to reach out and grab any hour to fulfill her or his destiny.

What we do have on our side then, is a storehouse of great wisdom. On days such as these, I can remember the words of the great black educator, Booker T. Washington, who advised his students at Tuskegee Institute to “cast down your buckets, wherever you are.” Surely, that is excellent advice for this stage in our history.

Anyone, anywhere, can look around the household or the neighborhood and find social work that needs doing. It might bother you that some of your neighbors will begin to call you a do-gooder, but rest assured they are not calling the people on the other side, the ones who are causing the problems, anything at all. They are just laying down, rolling over and letting the evil-doers have their way.

This may be the year to become a hero or heroine, in the eyes of your children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends. Spread love, kindness and generosity and dare to risk to be called a decent human being. One act of genuine goodness each day by a few people will cancel out a portion of the ugliness of the many.

Each new year begins with a new day. Let’s make it happen in 2005, just because we can.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net


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