Barbara: Since your post, Deb, about the Human Spirit, I’ve been thinking a lot about Human Kindness.
Do you ever wonder if maybe there would be more acts of kindness if people had a set of rules they HAD to follow? You know, a “Human Manual” with instructions to help you cope when things go awry. Something like: if someone collapses in front of you, you 1) approach them 2) find out if they’re okay 3) if they’re not okay, call 911 or get someone else to call. Or something to that effect.
I know this is probably second-nature to the kinds of people who read this blog, but I can’t help having a sort of wild faith in those people you hear about (or see on video surveillance footage) who walk past that guy who’s writhing on the street. What if it’s that they just DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO and not that they don’t have it in their hearts to DO SOMETHING? Maybe for them it’s a terrible moment of panic and impotence instead of apathy. Maybe our fight or flight response also applies to our reactions in the face of other people’s adversity (whether it’s witnessing a crime or hearing that a friend has cancer—and either responding like a mensch or slinking away and ignoring it).
And I think this division between those for whom kindness is easy and those for whom it needs to be learned can be found around the world, regardless of personal history. And KIND people generally outnumber cheek-turning, mean-talking, need-to-consult-a-Human-Manual Apathetics.
Recently, I heard from my cousin who’s peacekeeping in Afghanistan and he told me that the locals there have no desire to fight, but just want to live their lives and feed their children. Most of them go about their days showing respect and hospitality to both “sides”. It reminded me that no matter what our backgrounds, we have so MUCH in common. And our expansive love and kindness can be found even in the least fertile places.
After all, it’s like that scientist said: there is greater diversity in the DNA of a handful of snails than there is in the entire human race!
We are (or can be) so much better than our press would have us believe.