I often marvel at how good people are when I travel and have occasion to do a lot of people watching. Not that I sit around and watch others, but venturing through countless airports, waiting in many different types of lines, sitting on planes and driving through busy cities, thousands of people cross my path. And most of them are really nice individuals!
From a waiting area in an airport, I can see the new young dad with toddlers in tow doing his best to keep little hands out of trouble, and expressing all kinds of tenderness, love and care that he probably would never admit to on a football field. I can watch the late traveler rushing to his next plane cut in front of a pedestrian and run his roller suitcase over the other guy’s toe, but no complaint is voiced. I can be standing in a long line at security, and a late-comer rushes up about to miss his plane, and people will let him cut in front without protest or comment. I can see people strolling through the terminals with a look of contentment on their face, thinking happily about something pleasant in their life. I can see huge amounts of patience and understanding expressed when planes are late or cancelled. I can find good qualities all over the place when I look for them. They are abundant and gratifying to witness. They are evidence of mankind’s innate goodness shining through.
These expressed graces are not noisy. They don’t stand up and say “Look at me!” They are humble happenings, quietly done, barely noticeable if you aren’t paying attention or the immediate recipient of their goodwill. And this is the irony. Complaining attitudes often do get all the attention. They are loud, noisy, contentious, unpleasant to be around, and so authorities work to quiet the trouble down and end the dispute. Because of the intensity of discord, it can get to feel like everyone is that way.
The preponderance of negative views of humanity in the media doesn’t help. It skews the public perception of one’s neighbor in general. When you hear day after day about in-fighting and bitter partisanship in Washington D.C., endless reports of murders, robberies, and crime, and the employee at work that makes office life difficult for everyone else, these impressions occupy a preponderance of attention in thought and cast an impression that the world is filled with people who are hard to get along with. But it’s not true. People in general, are basically very good to the core of their being. And everyone has good qualities in them.
People care. They want to aid others in need. They will stop what they’re doing and volunteer help in times of difficulty. They do act unselfishly. They smile. They extend a helping hand. They engage in acts of kindness. They give others the benefit of the doubt. They laugh when they might complain. They are patient and will keep to themselves when a complainer might outburst a protest. People generally understand what is required for society to function as a harmonious unit. That’s why thousands can drive home in rush hour traffic and make it home intact. That’s why hundreds can jam sidewalks walking to and fro with little incident.
There are certainly exceptions in our communities and in the world, and some observers believe civility is on the decline, but the more I learn how good God created each of us, the easier it is to see that goodness in others. It’s evident all around when one looks.
Maybe we all need to look more…
Have you been looking recently? Is it easy for you to see goodness in others?