The cliché “if it bleeds it leads” is often used to describe the focus of the nightly news.
People often question the focus on terrible things and wonder why we can’t report on happy events instead. I see it differently. To me the fact that bad stuff is considered news means the good and the happy must be the norm. I believe if newscasters had to report on all the acts of kindness that go on in the world there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day. I take great comfort in the fact they can fit all the terrible stuff into half an hour or less.
Great Big Sea has a wonderful song called Good People that contains the lyrics, “The world today can be a scary place, hard to keep your faith in the human race. We’re running out of trees and we’re running out of space, but we’ll never run out of good people. Ask ’em for a shovel and they’ll dig you a hole, put the coffee on, drag you in from the cold. If you get lost they’ll show you where to go. And give you a ride — good people.”
Call me Pollyanna in the rose coloured shades but I believe the world is full of good people. Sure, some might be asking to borrow a shovel to bury someone they just killed but a million more will be using it to plant a tree. That reminds me of an urban myth.
Two neighbours were living side by side (as neighbours so often do). One had a big dog and the other had a pet rabbit which they kept in a small pen in their backyard. One day the rabbit owners left on a week-long vacation. The next day the couple who owned the dog found Rover on their deck with the neighbour’s muddy, pet rabbit in his mouth. Worse, the rabbit was decidedly dead. As you might expect they were extremely upset and a debate ensued over what they should do. They decided to wash the rabbit, wait until dark and then sneak into the yard and put bunny back in its cage hoping the neighbours would assume it had died from natural causes. One week later the vacationing neighbours return. Shocked to find the dead bunny in its cage they go to bury it but can’t find their shovel. So they go next door to borrow one from the dog owning neighbour, explaining the situation. “Your rabbit is dead? That’s terrible!” The guilt-stricken neighbours exclaim. “Of course you can borrow our shovel.”
“Thanks,” say the rabbit owners. “But I’ve got to tell you we’re a little concerned. You see, our rabbit died a few days before we left. We buried him in the backyard but while we were away some sicko dug him up, gave him a bath and put him back in his cage.”
Speaking of urban myths and good people, perhaps the biggest urban myth of all is the thinking that urban centres are unfriendly. You hear that a lot, especially growing up in a small town. There’s a perception that no one cares about you in the big city; that you could fall down dead and people would just step over you. It’s not true. I have yet to visit a city without having friendly conversations with strangers or offers of assistance when needed. I’m a shy person by nature so I am rarely the one who instigates dialogue or asks for help, which makes all the exchanges I’ve had an even greater testimony to the natural human kindness that wraps itself around our globe.
A couple months ago we were in Vancouver and had taken the Skytrain in from the airport. We got off at our station a few blocks from our hotel but we were unsure of which direction to go.
The wheels on our suitcase had scarcely stopped moving before a woman hurrying past stopped and asked if she could help. She gave us clear directions and we were on our way. That’s the norm. While in the city I have watched someone come up a few dollars short for a purchase and a stranger in the line up behind them reach into their wallet and make up the difference. I have witnessed a person in a wheelchair struggle to negotiate a curb and a stranger pause to push them up without missing a beat. I have seen people fall down — not dead, just down — and strangers pick them back up. I will never lose faith in the human race. It’s true. Wherever you go the world is full of good people.
Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. Catch up on past columns by dropping by www.shannonmckinnon.com