Robin Williams died at his own hand. Friends lost every treasured memory and keepsake in devastating floods. Iraqis are starving and dying on a mountaintop after being hunted by guerrillas. Syria’s civil war battles on, everyone turning on each other violently. Everywhere around the world, people want the Jews wiped out.
If you read the headlines and watch the news, surely you must think the apocalypse is happening now. The world is coming to an end.
I can’t watch. I can’t read. I must shut it out. Bad news is everywhere.
In the aftermath of this week’s horrible flood in Detroit, a reporter friend emailed to see if any clients had water damage in their workplaces. Sure, I want to know what’s going on. It is essential that we know what’s happening to people so that we can help. But can’t we balance the devastating, jaw-dropping stories with heart-warming stories of kindness and heroism?
No one emailed me asking for the heroic stories of people who helped one another, of people who are OK, of people who are happy.
Because those stories don’t sell. They’re not newsworthy.
I’m concerned that we are blanketing our world with devastation and violence and horrible things and that’s adding up to a very skewed negative perspective. I feel like everyone’s out to get me, and nowhere is safe.
So I, like so many others, lock myself in my house where I have the illusion of safety. Perhaps I double-layer it with an alarm system that connects directly to the police. I wrap myself in the illusion of calm.
On Monday, as rain water swirled around us and we tried to make sense of what was happening, my little guy was watching the weather channel, where it said that water at 4 mph has the force of a tornado. He started to shake with fear. Damn TV news. I changed the channel to Sponge Bob, where too much water is a blessing.
It’s a choice, to focus on the bad. We could fill our news outlets with stories of good and humanity and heart-filled living. We can effect change – voting with our purchases, refusing to buy newspapers that blare negativity from the front page, not subscribing to news channels that skew stories.
We could start our own media outlets, filled with stories of humanity and kindness. Like the time I went to the mosque in Dearborn to research bread-baking, and saw all these similarities between my Jewish upbringing and faith and the foundation of the mosque. The Muslim grandmothers were like my grandmother; we were so similar.
I’d like to share stories of how on Monday, as the rainwaters rose in our street, my daughter was baking and decorating cookies to take outside to the people stuck in their cars. How about a story about my children and two of their cousins dancing on the lawn in the falling night outside my parents’ house, and my parents came outside in pajamas to hug and kiss and see half of their 10 grandchildren, who were so happy to be together?
There is good everywhere – we just don’t focus on it. Too much bad fills us with the wrong energy, negativity that instills fear and anxiety and trouble and nightmare, swirling together like the worst storm, ready to take down everything in its path.
You know what I mean: you sit and ruminate over what-ifs and if-onlys and fear that you’ll never make enough, earn enough, be enough to succeed. Those are the stories that spin in our heads when all we hear and see and immerse in is bad-bad-bad.
Imagine what life would be like if instead, the world transmitted tales of good and heroism and abundance. Kindness. Friendship. Love of strangers.
Once upon a time, a man and a woman were happy in their home, where the windows stayed open all night and no one dared to trespass. Children shared pens and crayons at school and complimented each other on their outfits, even the mismatched, out-of-date styles. Sports teams shook hands at the end of a match, congratulating one another on their skill, talent and effort.
Happy world. Good world. Kindness between people. That’s the kind of setting I want for my life. No cutting words. No glass-half-empty.
I believe it is possible, that we can stem the tide and change the focus and sway the masses to come over to our way of seeing things. It’ll take a lot of work, but it is so worth it if we can turn frowns into smiles and smooth out the creases of worry that are ubiquitous on every forehead.
Not Botox, thank you. Just a healthy dose of good cheer.