December 26, 2012

I believe

I want to believe in the goodness of people. I always have, you know. I believe that people are possessed of a powerful good despite all I have lived through. “For someone who doesn’t believe in God, you have a lot of faith in people,” a friend once said.

“Because that’s all I have to believe in,” I answered.

This fall has tested my faith. People cried over Sandy, then went right back to idling their cars and buying piles of useless crap. We’ll deal with global warming as long as it doesn’t cut into our Walmart trips.

Then there was Newtown. That the gun lobby – paid for by the gun manufacturers – could respond to the slaughter of teachers and children with a call for more guns makes me nauseous every time I think about it. I try to bring the thought to the surface of my mind in tiny, frequent snippets in order to inure myself to it. It’s not working.

People starved by the anarchy in Syria heard there might finally be bread. They lined up outside a bakery. And dozens of them were bombed to death.

Oh, my god, as if the Bushmasters haven’t caused enough damage lately, there’s the crazy man who set a fire in Webster, NY, and then shot at the first responders.

If I believed in God, I’d have given up by now. But I believe in people.

Did you hear that the cops in Newtown all had Christmas off because the police officers in neighboring towns filled in for the day?

I have a friend whose elementary school principal moved his desk into the front hallway so that if a copycat shooter came in, he’d be there first.

Our school math specialist pulled me aside last Monday. “I was hoping Benjamin hadn’t heard, because he already has so many fears.”

And Zia, the brother of a friend of mine. He’s a chef in New York and a resident of Staten Island. He’s been buying supplies for his neighbors and delivering food to those who’ve lost everything. He’s doing it all out of his own pocket, so if you want to help him continue to serve the community hit by Hurricane Sandy, here’s the link to donate.

We are such a complicated, fragile species. We have the capacity for such great good and the ability to do unbelievable harm to one another. Our brains need only the slightest tweak in the wrong direction to turn geniuses into psychopaths.

I continue to believe in people. I choose to continue to believe in people.

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  • Reply Anjali December 26, 2012 at 1:48 am

    I do, too, Emily. I do, too.

  • Reply Lilian Nattel December 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    There’s about as much reason to believe in people as in God. The evidence isn’t promising. It’s about experience rather than evidence, however, and about how you can manage to live. I’m glad that you can hold onto your faith. We all need some.

  • Reply Rebecca December 27, 2012 at 2:26 am

    My husband says we are a better people today than we were yesterday and we will be better tomorrow. (He is, of course, an optimist). And he insists that we continue to grow better and better.

  • Reply Heather December 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Hard to write a bumbling comment when you say things so eloquently.

  • Reply Catherine December 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I think a lot about the fact that, until the past two generations, people knew only their local community. Horrible things were happening everywhere, but you only had to take in the bad news happening to people you actually knew, who were close enough you could walk to their house. On the other hand, you actually KNEW everyone who’s house was in walking distance. Now, the opposite is true. We are bombarded 24/7 with every tidbit of bad news cabin stations can find to report, but we don’t actually know many people, and certainly not the people actually living alongside us in “community.” I think this must have an impact on how we view ourselves and others and humanity. It also makes it a lot harder to trust and help the people we could actually impact (and to be trusted and helped in return).

    As an aside, every day I pick up my son for school, and every day that it is below freezing I am tempted to keep my car idling. And EVERY SINGLE DAY I hear your voice saying “who still does that?!” So I turn it off. But it gets so cold!!

  • Reply WendyElissa January 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Those stupid idling cars!! Everyday I want to bang on people’s windows and shout, “Do you see the earth self-destructing!? Stop helping it along!” But I don’t, because I might get arrested or something.

  • Reply Lauren January 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I have to say I also hear your voice saying “who still does that?” A lot.

  • Reply Marste January 7, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    “If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today. ( . . . ) Because if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.”

    I am only moderately embarrassed to admit that it comes from the Joss Whedon show “Angel”. Ahem.

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