“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
In the wake of the tornado that hit Jefferson City, I have watched Missourians come together to assist fellow Missourians in need. Human beings, black, white, Latino, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian, Republican, Democrat, urban and rural have donated items, money and time to help those who became victims of the storm.
It is heartwarming to me to watch us come together to help someone. Given the social, political, economic and racial divisions in this country, such acts of kindness and love should renew our belief in the goodness of the human spirit.
Sometimes it is hard to believe in the goodness of the human spirit. We are constantly bombarded with bad news from various arenas: news media, social media, the barbershop, the beauty salon, the gym, everywhere. The result is that we are tempted to commit two intellectual, social-ethical errors.
The first error is to turn off all media and withdraw from the external world of activity. We adopt a mindset that if we just ignore all the negativity around us it will go away.
Such a mindset is an error because only our collective actions will overcome the evil in the world, and to be informed is to be empowered. No matter how painful the media is, we must stay informed. It is our duty and our right.
The second error is to believe that everyone is only out for themselves. The psychological egoists state that “all people always do what is in their own best interest.” They believe all acts of altruism are merely “self-centered” thus to believe that people have compassion for others is simply a flight into fantasy.
I refuse to believe that the people in Jefferson City who went door to door to make sure their neighbors were all right or those who volunteered to clean up neighborhoods, served meals, helped give clothing and baby food to those who are now homeless did it only for themselves.
That kind of thinking confuses the resultant good feeling of doing for others with motivation. Are there selfish people in the world? Of course. But I believe more people believe it is a good thing to be part of a solution instead of the problem.
I believe most people can exercise and demonstrate compassion without a hidden agenda.
I am proud of my fellow Missourians who reached out and are still helping victims of the storm.
I am also proud of people who not only help after a tornado but help the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised and the socially forgotten every day.
You remind me that the goodness of the human spirit still exists.
The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.