It’s all fine. No worries. Everything’s fine.
The shootings: they’re over there. Someone else’s neighborhood, town, school, church, supermarket.
The wars and ethnic cleansing: Another country. It’s far away and I don’t know anyone there.
Poverty and homelessness: That’s those people. They made the choices that got them in that spot.
I’m fine, and everyone I know is fine. COVID, climate change, insurrection, it’s all someone else’s problem because my family and I are just trying to figure out how to make it where we are, you know? I mean, things are hard enough as it is, I don’t need to start getting all bummed out by the stuff going on in other places with other people.
I mean, look at gas prices! Am I supposed to start taking the bus and train to get places now? And wear a mask because of COVID and maybe a flak jacket too because of criminals on the train?
Do we really think anyone wants to really help anyone else? I mean who can trust anyone, these days, with carjackings, government lies, fake news, violent demonstrators, criminal immigrants, angry mobs, school shootings, unsafe neighborhoods, unhinged politicians, abortionists, and more and more people you just can’t trust further than you can throw them.
It’s getting to be so much that I just can’t decide what’s what. We need to roll up our sidewalks and build stronger fences, homes that can withstand the coming civil war. We need to protect ourselves, because you don’t know what’s coming next, and that means what’s coming is bad. Bad for you, for your family, and everything you care about will be taken away. Taken away for good and handed out to the mob, strewn out across the land with no way that you’ll ever get anything back, because we’re turning into a world of crime, destruction, and violence.
It’s all crazy talk, right? But maybe it’s more familiar than you think. It’s the voice inside, the guy you know that talks a bit louder than everyone else.
But don’t worry. You’ll be fine.
All of this teeth gnashing and garment rendering going isn’t about you or your neighborhood or the people you know, work with or spend your time around.
You, reader of this blog, are likely well educated, probably make a good salary, live in a city, and, let’s be honest, you’re probably white. I mean, sure, some Black or Latino people might read this – but whatever. My point is: YOU are going to be just fine.
You don’t have to do anything. It’ll be fine.
But who am I to be pointing fingers, because that’s what’s going on here, right? I mean, what am I doing that’s making the world a better place? Taking the train, instead of a car. Recycling, composting, protesting, giving to charities, so what? It’s not like anyone is handing out any kind of awards for this stuff.
Even when you’re trying to do the right things. Trying to help, be good, make a positive difference, it all feels so nihilistic. Start small, we’re helpfully told. Try to impact your community. But then you turn on the TV, scroll through social media, and see THAT. And I don’t mean a certain thing, but I mean all of it. The things pulling us down, telling us that the world is impossible, full of steaming anger and hate and destruction.
When we’re trying to build, make it better. It feels like we’re just pushing a rock. Up a hill. Only to watch it roll down again.
Nobody cares that you do your best to be a good person, to reach out, to connect, to make good choices. You see the kindest people, doing good, but their efforts seem washed away by the sewage. We’re all so primed and tense, preparing ourselves for the worst. It makes us feel like we’ve already lost.
Once a year, I perform a personal ritual. I watch “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, the documentary about Fred Rogers. And without fail, I cry. I cry for his kindness. I cry for the connection he made with me as a little boy and grown man. I cry for his Congressional testimony. I cry for his strength and unbending commitment to seeing the best in all of us, like a beacon, even if now he no longer walks the earth.
I cry because I wish I could have his strength. Be like him, and see the good in everyone, like an x-ray vision, so that I could lift that goodness and try to make the best of every situation.
If I had the strength of Fred Rogers, I could feel confident doing good. Because I would know that it WAS good, and that was enough. That scratching away at my little corner of the world was making a difference and that I didn’t have to be afraid of the nihilism, the haters, the destroyers.
Clear my mind: I will not be afraid.
I will reach out. I will care. I will help.