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​​Looking for the Good in People

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Every day, we’re barraged with media reports magnifying negative aspects of human behavior. Whether a story deals with geopolitical friction and conflict on the global stage, the acrimony of shrill, scorched-earth political tussles here in the States, or just the latest local crime, the repetitive din surrounding ugly behaviors can make it too easy for us to despair about the prospects for the human race.

On the surface, it may look like human beings don’t know how to get along with each other. That’s a fallacy, and an egregious one at that. As was proved on 9/11, and as being proved repeatedly in Ukraine, destroying a building takes only a fraction of the time it takes to build one. If destruction were predominant, or even if it were only, say, one-tenth as common as peaceful cooperation, the world’s cities would be piles of rubble. It’s helpful to remember that peace and nonviolence are the norm while conflict and violence are aberrations.

Is that too rosy a picture of human nature? I don’t think so.

If you look around observantly when you’re in public, you never know when you may see little acts of kindness. Somebody with full hands drops something on the sidewalk, and a total stranger stops to pick it up and help the owner get a better grip on it. People will slow down to help a hobbled senior citizen limping slowly and using a cane in various ways—sometimes to get into an elevator, other times through a doorway, other times considerately stepping aside to make more room for them.

On a broader scale, think of the thousands of Americans who drive long distances to help fellow Americans—people whom they’ve never met—clean up after a devastating flood or destructive storm. Think of the millions of dollars that Americans donate to help people in need in far-off countries about which they know virtually nothing.

The bottom line is that there’s a lot of compassion and kindness in the human heart. That suggests an important question: How can we experience more of that kindness? I think it starts by knowing that most people have those qualities. We just need to make an effort to see them.

I think of that often while driving. Being a native Detroiter, I learned early on to value ”my space” on the road and to feel indignation when another driver invades that space. Now I’m working on breaking that stupid habit. How? By doing my best to picture an annoying or obnoxious driver as a potential friend. I speculate that the unseen driver could actually be a friend from church, or maybe the child or grandchild of one of my college buddies. Even if there are more than a few degrees of separation between us, it’s a good bet that the driver has some wonderful qualities that I like and admire. In short, this person might become a good friend if I only got to know him or her.

That’s the key, then: getting to know others. As 20th-century humorist Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” That doesn’t mean that the people we meet are perfect, but that in getting to know them, we begin to see their positive qualities. The potential for friendship is there.

In our modern, busy society, however, our interactions with others are often exceedingly brief, so we remain strangers. How many opportunities for friendship have we lost by not striking up a conversation? Probably a lot more than we realize. Of course, we don’t have time to make friends with everyone we meet, but is there some way we could get to know just a couple of people a little bit better each year? The possibilities are staggering.

I do some volunteer work in a city near where I live, and I have met some interesting people. A recent favorite—possibly a friend in the making—is a young man named Zachary. We started with a casual conversation that quickly moved on to deeper topics and stretched on for the better part of an hour.

While I was interested in knowing more about him, Zachary enthusiastically pumped me with questions about my life. He wanted to hear about things like cultural crosscurrents in American society during the Vietnam War and my odyssey of self-discovery as I passed through various political and religious beliefs.

How rare that a young man would want to pick the brain of a senior citizen as he continues to soak up different perspectives. I used to tell my students in every college class I taught that they would never be truly educated until they took charge of their own education. That means identifying what they wanted to learn and then taking steps to learn it. Zachary is living that philosophy.

One important aspect of Oriental cultures is respect for elders and a willingness to listen to them. One feature of American culture has been its openness to and acceptance of the energy and creative ideas of youth. As is so often the case in life, the best results come from finding a balance between two extremes. We oldsters need to listen to youths (and not just to get their help with digital devices!). Youths, meanwhile, can profit from listening to their elders, learning what’s worth preserving and hopefully learning from some of our mistakes so as not to repeat them.

Zachary’s open-mindedness brought me a touch of sadness about the state of so-called “higher” education in the United States today. A young person’s time at college should be like mine was—a stimulating, oft-times challenging, but ultimately rewarding adventure of exploring a wide range of ideas. Alas, most college students are denied that exhilarating intellectual adventure today as they’re processed through woke universities where professors indoctrinate students with vapid, vacuous ideologies rather than encourage them to question, challenge, reason, think, and always, always search for truth.

I encourage you to try to get to know a few more people. You often will find that you like what you have discovered. We can each make the world a friendlier place.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.



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TruthUSA

I'm TruthUSA, the author behind TruthUSA News Hub located at https://truthusa.us/. With our One Story at a Time," my aim is to provide you with unbiased and comprehensive news coverage. I dive deep into the latest happenings in the US and global events, and bring you objective stories sourced from reputable sources. My goal is to keep you informed and enlightened, ensuring you have access to the truth. Stay tuned to TruthUSA News Hub to discover the reality behind the headlines and gain a well-rounded perspective on the world.

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